Cardinals decline option on Benes

Friday, November 1, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- Andy Benes was mulling the next stage of his career Thursday after the Cardinals declined a $6 million option on his contract.

The team wants to sign Benes, 35, but at a lower salary. The right-hander, who lives in St. Louis County, filed for free agency to keep his options open.

"There are 30 teams and I'm willing to listen to everything," Benes said. "I've got a pretty good offer from my crew at home, so I don't know. It may be tough for baseball to compete."

Benes wasn't surprised by the move by the Cardinals, who are in the process of restructuring their pitching staff with Woody Williams and relievers Dave Veres and Rick White also filing for free agency, and Chuck Finley, Jamey Wright and Jeff Fassero expected to follow suit.

Benes said general manager Walt Jocketty told him he'd like to talk to him in the next week or so.

"I expected it, so it wasn't a major shock," Benes said. "I'm not a dummy."

Benes technically gets a $1.5 million buyout. The money actually was part of his 2000 salary, and will be paid over the next eight years.

Benes nearly retired in April, when he had a 10.80 ERA after three starts. He returned from a knee injury in July, and his 1.86 ERA after the All-Star break led the major leagues.

He finished 5-4 with a 2.78 ERA and would like to end his career on his own terms.

"I've had a lot of time to think about it, and I don't want to be in a position where I'm kicked out the door," Benes said. "I was in that position in April and didn't like it."

Benes, a power pitcher all his career, came back by developing a split-finger fastball to keep hitters off balance.

"There's a lot of ways to get people out," he said.

Despite his performance, Benes didn't feel he was highly regarded by the Cardinals down the stretch. He said he never knew when he was going to pitch next.

"I enjoy doing what I do," Benes said. "But if you don't know if you're going to go out and pitch, that's not much fun."

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