'Mando Bizarro 

Will Carroll has a note on Armando Benitez in today's Under the Knife column that's notable not just for its kind words for the S.F. med staff -- in Carroll's estimation, Benitez's recovery is unprecedented -- but for the sports world's first-ever reference to an esoteric Yugoslavian landmark.

As always, I only excerpt enough to tantalize you into subscribing to Baseball Prospectus:

It’s not water to wine or Medjugorje, but the comeback of Armando Benitez might rank right up there with modern baseball miracles. Benitez tore his hamstring back in late April and appears ready to be activated within the next week. The Giants closer was on a surgeon’s table just three months ago, having two of the three muscles of his hamstring screwed back into the bone, and is now ready to take back his role of closer. As impressive as the return of Ken Griffey has been from similar surgery, seeing it happen within the season is even more astounding. Benitez is the first pitcher known to have this type of surgery so there’s nothing to judge this by. Give a ton of credit to Dr. Michael Dillingham and the Giants medical staff, as well as to Benitez himself.

Heartening news, especially if you forget that Benitez's terrible April had nothing to do with his injury, as far as we know. Let's hope April '05 was just a statistical blip and that we see a return to peak form in 2006.

Lingering naively on the sunny side of the street for a moment more: it seems that LaTroy Hawkins is rounding into his Minnesota form, when he was one of the game's dominant set-up guys. His immediate post-trade troubles were perhaps caused by an elbow flare-up that landed him on the DL. Since then, throw out the ugly late-July series in Chi-Town and Hawkins is looking nearly unhittable.

Plus, he read The Tipping Point and Kite Runner while on the DL: anytime a ballplayer actually admits to reading more than his bank statement, it's a plus. (Yeah, but does he know where Medjugorje is?)

I was an advocate of making Tyler Walker the closer in May. Overall he's been too erratic, but it was worth the experiment. With Benitez back, Walker can slot back to middle relief and refine his game under less of a spotlight. He's a good arm to have in the bullpen and now has some valuable experience under pressure.

With those three, plus Scott Eyre, whom the Giants seem intent on re-signing, and some Liebensraum on Das Pitchingschtaff for Die Munter-Taschner axis of young cheap arms, the Giants bullpen could be a real strength in '06. It better be, 'cause it's going to cost around $15 million. That's assuming Eyre gets at least a couple mil for his sterling work this year. (Knock on wood.)


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