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The Mets spent the spring pressuring the 6-4, 230-pound Benitez to stay in shape, and he's responded by transferring his old macho act from the mound to the trainer's room, where excess work on the treadmill has aggravated his chronically nagging right knee. Significantly, out in Colorado last week, the reliever was doing high-profile wind sprints in the outfield during pregame warm-ups to show that he was fit as a double bass; perhaps that's why Bobby Valentine tried to give him a lesson by keeping him out on the mound through a horrific one-inning, 40-pitch, five-hit, four-run performance that turned a seemingly rare Mets laugher into a 10-9 nail-biter of a win. Word around the league is that Benitez's fastball doesn't have its usual 95-mph zip, and the stats back that up. While his career ground-out-to-fly-out ratio is around .6, so far in 2001 it's more of a sinkerballer's 1.2. Which might have been fine if Benitez hadn't already given up five home runs in just 16.1 innings this season. So instead of being a fly-ball pitcher, he's become a ground-ball-plus-Big-Fly-ball pitcher.

And as far as Benitez's mental approach goes, all we know is that during the aforementioned Photo Day, where all the players spent an hour or so posing for pictures for the money-paying fans, Armando was the last Met on the field—and the first one off.


Contributors: Alisa Solomon, John Stravinsky, Billy Altman
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman

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