07/16/2003 1:10 AM ET
Benitez watches NL fall to AL
All-Star Game may be reliever's last appearance as a Met
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
All-Star box score
CHICAGO -- Twice before in his career, Mets closer Armando Benitez missed out on participating in the All-Star Game because of injuries.
This time, he made it as the Mets' lone representative, but his career All-Star innings remained at zero. Benitez didn't enter Tuesday's All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field, watching some of the other National League closers give up a 6-3 lead as the American League came from behind to win, 7-6.
"I'm not disappointed," Benitez said. "It was a great game. I enjoyed being here."
The fraternity of closers is a tight one, and Benitez obviously felt empathy for Eric Gagne, the Dodgers stopper who gave up three runs in the eighth inning to get the All-Star Game loss.
"We talked about it," Benitez said about the pitch Gagne threw to Hank Blalock for the game-winning, two-run homer in the eighth. "He thought he threw a good pitch. Those guys can hit the ball."
Benitez could very well be the last guy to throw his teammate under the proverbial bus for a loss. He's no stranger to shouldering the blame, pitching in the pressure cooker that is New York and blowing a career-high seven saves in the first half. Gagne stated that players win as a team and lose as a team, that no one should be the guy who takes the heat. Benitez responded with a smile and a cocked eyebrow.
"No one guy deserves taking all the responsibility?" Benitez asked. "We do lose as a team and win as a team."
It seems more and more likely that team will soon be changing for Benitez. Late reports Tuesday had the Mets closer headed to the Yankees for pitcher Jason Anderson to set up for Mariano Rivera.
It's extremely possible representing the Mets in the All-Star Game may have been his last official act wearing the blue and orange. A trade would end an up-and-down 4 1/2 year stint with the Mets in which Benitez saved 160 out of 185 save opportunities (86.5 percent), but never completely earned the trust of fans in New York.
"I'm not worried about it," said Benitez, who confirmed he had lunch with agent Mike Powers Tuesday afternoon but would not divulge the subject matter of their meeting. "I'm ready to play. Wherever they send me, I'll do my job.
"They'll make a decision and I'll take it. It'll only be for two months."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.