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03/11/08 2:10 PM ET

Jays bring in Benitez for bullpen depth

Toronto GM says closer could factor into middle-inning role

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Armando Benitez received a few handshakes on Tuesday morning -- first from Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, who just finished watching the veteran reliever throw during a brief bullpen session at the Bobby Mattick Training Center.

Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg followed suit, and then general manager J.P. Ricciardi completed the round of congratulations. Ricciardi's gesture also included a Minor League contract, which Benitez accepted and signed, adding another arm to the mix for an already-crowded bullpen race.

"He threw the ball well in the 'pen, but he's still not in shape," Ricciardi said. "He's got a lot of experience behind him. Ovbviously, we're not looking for him to be a closer. We've got guys who can fill that role.

"Maybe he pitches well enough where he puts himself in a spot to pitch in those middle innings. We'll see. We'll know more once he gets in camp and throws."

The 35-year-old Benitez is scheduled to undergo a routine physical exam on Wednesday, and Ricciardi said the right-hander would likely join Toronto in big league camp on Thursday. The Jays didn't pursue Benitez, but didn't see the harm in signing him after being contacted by the pitcher's agent.

"His agent called me and said he's looking for a job," Ricciardi said. "So we said, 'Bring him up and we'll watch him throw and we'll see how he looks.' We'll keep stockpiling as many arms as we can and see if there's a guy that surprises you and can keep helping you out."

Last season, Benitez had sints with both the San Francisco Giants and Florida Marlins. He finished 2-8 with a 5.37 ERA and 17 saves over 54 games. Benitez has compiled 289 career saves -- including a 47-save showing in 2004 with the Marlins -- over his 14 seasons in the Majors.

Benitez simply adds depth to a bullpen that includes capable closers in B.J. Ryan, who is coming back from a left elbow injury, and Jeremy Accardo, who saved 30 games in Ryan's absence last year. The Benitez signing also came on a day when Casey Janssen -- the Jays' primary setup man last season -- was sidelined with a right shoulder injury.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.