07/14/2003 7:34 PM ET
Benitez happy to be an All-Star
CHICAGO -- These are strange days for Armando Benitez.
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
The 30-year-old closer is representing the New York Mets as the franchise's only All-Star this season, though he wakes up each day wondering how much longer he will be wearing the same uniform.
"I'm going to enjoy the whole experience, being my first time at the All-Star Game. I'm really happy to be here," Benitez said. "It's been a tough couple of months, but that makes it even better to be here."
Benitez's numbers look solid at first glance: 3-3, 21 saves and a 3.10 ERA. But scan over one more column to blown saves, and that's where his problems have come into play. Benitez has blown seven save opportunities, a whopping 25 percent. In the 2001 and 2002 seasons combined, Benitez blew a total of seven saves, racking up 76 saves in the process.
Despite his relatively low save percentage this season, he feels no need to defend his inclusion on the National League's All-Star team.
"I don't have to defend myself," Benitez said. "The manager talked for me. He made the decision, he picked me because he knows what I can do."
Benitez is making his first All-Star appearance, having missed out twice before. In 1999, a knee injury kept him from the Midsummer Classic in Boston, while an injury in 2001 caused Bobby Valentine to pass over his closer for the game in Seattle
"I've been looking forward to this," Benitez said. "I wasn't missing this one."
Benitez continues to be the focus of several trade rumors, with teams including the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers and Expos among the potential suitors. In most of those scenarios, Benitez would step in as a setup man, a role he performed in front of closers such as Randy Myers, Lee Smith and John Franco.
"No matter where I go, I'll do the job they want me to do," Benitez said. "It won't be a problem for me. Every team knows what I can do, to be a closer, so I won't be upset if I'm a setup man on some team. I'll just do my job. If a team thinks that my service can help them win, I don't have any problem."
When asked about the possibility of being dealt across town to the Yankees, Benitez seemed intrigued by the idea of forming a 1-2 punch with Mariano Rivera.
"I've been setup man for a lot of good closers," Benitez said. "I won't be upset as long as we win. If I can help the team, that's all I want. Rivera and me would be a good combo, we'd give the team a chance to win.
"At least I'd be able to stay in New York," he added. "I wouldn't have to move out of my house."
For now, Benitez is a Met, and he plans on doing the best job he can to represent his team.
"I don't worry about any of it," Benitez said. "Every day is a new day, and I just try to do my job, whatever and wherever that is."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.