12/05/2002 11:37 am ET
Benes decides to call it a career
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- A snowstorm could push back Andy Benes' retirement, but it couldn't prevent it.
A day later than originally scheduled, Benes met with Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty on Thursday and formally notified Jocketty of his plans to retire. The right-hander had intended to meet with the GM on Wednesday, but a snowstorm made travel in the St. Louis area difficult, and the meeting was pushed back.
Benes indicated to the Associated Press last week the intended to retire, but he declined to make an announcement until he had a chance to meet with Jocketty. He nearly retired early in the 2002 season, after he was hit hard in his first three starts and placed on the disabled list.
Injuries have bothered Benes since 2000, forcing him to change his style. Once a power pitcher, he learned to rely on guile and changing speeds. He continues to suffer from an arthritic right knee, and he pitched with a knee brace for the last two seasons.
But he still managed a brilliant second half in 2002, going 5-2 with a 1.86 ERA after the All-Star break. The Cardinals declined a 2003 option on Benes that was reportedly worth $6 million. They had hoped to bring him back at a lesser cost. Benes said he had no desire to pitch anywhere but St. Louis, and that if he could not reach an agreement with the club, he would not pitch anywhere in 2003.
Benes finishes his career with a record of 155-139 and a 3.97 ERA in 2,505 1/3 innings. He struck out his 2,000th batter in his final start, on the last day of the season against Milwaukee. His last win was Sept. 6 against the Cubs and younger brother Alan, his former teammate in St. Louis.
With Benes gone, the Cardinals have four starting pitchers under contract or control for 2003: Matt Morris, who is signed through '04; Woody Williams, who recently signed a new two-year deal; Garrett Stephenson, who is arbitration-eligible but not a free agent; and Jason Simontacchi, who is not yet arbitration-eligible.
That leaves Chuck Finley and Jamey Wright as the two undecided starters from St. Louis. The team acquired both pitchers via trade during 2002, and both are free agents. Finley might choose to pitch closer to his home in California, while the club would like very much to sign the talented but sometimes erratic Wright.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at
Matthew_H_Leach@yahoo.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.