Orioles deal reliever, prospect in exchange for Benson

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Orioles added much-needed experience to their starting rotation Saturday, acquiring right-hander Kris Benson from the New York Mets for right-handers Jorge Julio and John Maine.

Benson went 10-8 with a 4.13 ERA in 28 starts for New York last year. Despite spending all of April on the disabled list, he finished third on the Mets' staff in wins and starts.

"This gives us credibility in our starting rotation. We needed
a veteran presence," Orioles first-year manager Sam Perlozzo said.
"We don't need him to carry this staff; we just want him to pitch
well. It's a great addition."

Perlozzo believes Benson has a decent shot of seizing the No. 1 spot in a rotation that tentatively includes Rodrigo Lopez, Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera and Bruce Chen.

"I think Kris certainly has that potential," Perlozzo said. "I don't want to put too much pressure on him, but I think he can be a major force in this rotation. Regardless, this gives us five days in a row that we can feel good about the guy we've got starting on the mound."

The 31-year-old Benson spent parts of five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates before being traded to New York in July 2004. He missed the entire 2001 season after elbow ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow.

For his career, he is 57-61 with a 4.25 ERA in 165 starts.

"I was shocked when I heard about the trade this morning, but the more I thought about it, the more excited I got," Benson said. "I'm looking forward to helping out the rotation and doing everything I can to make this team a contender."

Mets general manager Omar Minaya said Benson's wife, Anna Benson, was not a factor in the trade. A model and an actress, she has posed topless and publicly discussed intimate details about their sex life.

Anna Benson showed up for a Saturday news conference wearing a black Baltimore Orioles jersey, but said she was not happy about the trade. The Mets signed Kris Benson to a three-year deal after acquiring him from Pittsburgh.

"I kind of feel like we were misled about this as a family," Anna Benson said. "It was a free-agent year. He could have signed anywhere."

She also showed up at the Mets' holiday party in December, where Anna Benson dressed as Santa Claus, in a low-cut Santa costume, a move that upset some in the organization.

"I am sexy and I don't shy away from that," she said in a statement.

The Mets were looking to bolster their bullpen in front of new closer Billy Wagner. Julio had 83 saves from 2002-04.

"We were able to get a power arm on the back end of the bullpen and we were able to get a young player, Maine, who had pretty good numbers in the minor leagues," Minaya said. "It gives us some depth. Now Aaron Heilman can get an opportunity to start."

New York's projected starting rotation is headed by Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Victor Zambrano and Steve Trachsel. Heilman and Maine are candidates for the fifth spot along with rookie Brian Bannister, Cuban defector Alay Soler and Japanese right-hander Yusaku Iriki.

Julio, a hard thrower, had 83 saves from 2002-04 and joins Duaner Sanchez in the set-up spot for new closer Billy Wagner.

The deal also saves New York about $5 million this year. Julio, who is in salary arbitration, will make about $2.55 million. Benson is owed $7.5 million in each of the next two seasons, and Baltimore
inherits a $7.5 million option for 2008 with a $500,000 buyout.

Benson expressed excitement about the prospect of working with pitching coach Leo Mazzone, throwing to catcher Ramon Hernandez and
working at Camden Yards.

"I've heard good things about their fan base," he said.

The Orioles have been trying for two seasons to add a veteran
starting pitcher to the rotation, and vice president Jim Duquette
said Baltimore targeted Benson soon after the 2005 season ended.

"Our pursuit of Kris goes back to November," Duquette said.
"One of our goals going into the offseason was to acquire another

Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan said, "Jim and I have been targeting people like Kris for veteran leadership. ... Obviously we're very pleased to add a pitcher of Kris Benson's ilk to our rotation."

Julio was Baltimore's closer from 2002-04. He had a 1.99 ERA in 2002 and a career-high 36 saves in 2003, but slipped the following season and ultimately lost the closer's job to B.J. Ryan. Working primarily as the setup man in 2005, Julio went 3-5 with a 5.90 ERA in 67 appearances last season.

In five major league seasons, he is 11-24 with a 4.20 ERA.

Julio, 26, became expendable after the Orioles acquired LaTroy Hawkins in a trade with the San Francisco Giants.

Maine went 2-3 with a 6.30 ERA in 10 appearances for the Orioles last year after being recalled from Triple-A Ottawa in August. He was the Orioles' sixth-round pick in the 2002 draft.

Martinez's injured toe is improving. "Pedro's been feeling
much better based on what the agent told me yesterday," said
Minaya, who spoke Friday with Fernando Cuza.