Back in business, Benson hits slam

Finally healthy, Twins prospect collects three hits, five RBIs

By Andrew Pentis / Special to | August 5, 2012 4:43 PM ET

As Joe Benson enters the final month of his turbulent 2012 season -- a season in which he has played with four Twins affiliates while rehabbing from an operation on his right wrist -- there is something he is still looking for.

"I have been getting in the cages with Rudy Hernandez and finding a consistent plate-approach," Benson said of his work with Double-A New Britain's batting coach. "Coming back from hamate surgery in May, it's more finding an approach than mechanics. When you're talking about the hand, the wrist -- anything in that area -- you favor that other hand. I am trying to find that swing I've had the last few years."

Find or found?

Minnesota's No. 5 prospect collected three hits and five RBIs -- both season highs -- while falling a triple shy of cycling on Sunday afternoon in the Rock Cats' 13-4 home rout of the Altoona Curve.

What was Benson thinking after the game?

"It was a relief to get past Gerrit Cole," he said.

Cole, the Curve starter and the Pirates' No. 2 prospect, induced a groundout from Benson on a sharp cutter in the second and froze him on a fastball to strike him out in the fourth.

"Seeing a guy for the first time is one thing," Benson said. "It makes it even more difficult when he can run it up 95, 96, 97 [mph]."

As soon as Cole exited -- the right-hander gave up two runs on three hits over 4 2/3 innings -- the Rock Cats lineup came to life, posting three crooked numbers: Five runs in the fifth, four in the seventh and three in the eighth.

Benson, a second-round draftee in 2006 and now 24, was at the center of the action. He stepped to the plate in the fifth against right-handed reliever Mike Colla (4-5).

"He had just thrown a bunch of changeups to [Chris] Colabello, so I told myself to be patient, wait him out," Benson said. "I got into a 3-1 count, saw a fastball out over plate and put a good swing on it."

It was just his sixth homer of the season in 67 games across four levels. Benson started April at Triple-A Rochester, hoping for his another chance in the Majors before injury beckoned. He is batting .236 on the year that's gone awry.

"I've had a down year statistically," he said. "This isn't where I wanted to be, but [there are] many learning points and experiences I can take way. [I'll aim] to come back next year to try to put something together and not worry about the mental side."

Benson then singled in the seventh and doubled home two runs in the eighth.

He was in good offensive company too. New Britain third baseman Deibinson Romero hit a three-run homer on a four-RBI night, while right fielder Oswaldo Arcia went 3-for-4 with a double and left fielder Aaron Hicks singled and stole three bases. Arcia and Hicks are ranked among the Twins' top four prospects, just ahead of Benson.

"Offensively and defensively, Hicks and Arcia ... seeing them as players day in and day out, it's very impressive, especially with how young and how talented they are," said Benson, who played center field.

Rock Cats starter B.J. Hermsen (9-6) yielded three runs on four hits over six innings. He recorded 12 outs on the ground.

"B.J. always pitches with a good tempo. He attacks the zone," Benson said. "Since I have been down here in Double-A, he's been as consistent a starter as we've had."

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at AndrewMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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