Kris Benson Pitches 2 Crisp Innings for Rangers

The only problem Kris Benson had in his Texas debut was waiting 20 minutes between innings as his new teammates circled the bases.

Benson allowed one run and two hits in two crisp innings, and the Rangers backed him with nine early runs Wednesday in a 12-7 exhibition victory over the Kansas City Royals.

"That little break got me out of my groove a little bit, but I'll take it any day," Benson said.

Signed to a minor league contract Saturday, Benson, who is coming off rotator cuff surgery, hasn't pitched in the majors since 2006. He needed only seven pitches to end the first inning, but allowed a long home run to designated hitter Billy Butler in the second before inducing a double play to end his outing.

"I felt great. I haven't felt this good in three years," Benson said. "My velocity is getting up there where it used to be. I feel really comfortable. I made the one mistake where I kind of left that slider over the middle of the plate."

Hank Blalock hammered the first pitch he saw for a two-run homer to highlight a six-run first inning against Kansas City starter Horacio Ramirez. Blalock, who will be a full-time designated hitter this year, followed back-to-back homers from Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz in the second by tripling high off the right-field wall.

One pitcher Benson has to beat out for a starting rotation spot, left-hander Matt Harrison, struggled. Harrison allowed a solo homer to Miguel Olivo and a three-run shot by Mike Jacobs in his inning of work.

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Benson has been throwing for two months and acknowledged he's ahead of the other pitchers.

"I'm not looking at this as a done deal by any means," he said. "I have to go out there and perform every time."

Ramirez had a much tougher debut for the Royals. Mark Teahen, making the switch from outfield to second base, threw away a potential inning-ending double-play ball from Hamilton. Ramirez allowed hits to six of the next seven Texas batters and never made it out of the inning.

"The first time on the mound is the toughest. Everyone is adjusting to the game speed," Ramirez said. "Everyone is going to make mistakes. I left the ball over the middle of the plate. Good hitters will make good contact."

Notes:@ The game was played before an announced crowd of 5,637, although there appeared to be less than half that total in the stands at Surprise Stadium. Last year's opener between these teams attracted 5,460 fans. ... Hamilton was one of 12 Rangers to agree to one-year contracts Wednesday and will earn a salary of $555,000. Rangers GM Jon Daniels said he is open to discussing a long-term deal with Hamilton, but hasn't begun negotiations. The other players to sign included RHP Omar Beltre, 1B Chris Davis ($406,620) RHP Thomas Diamond, INF German Duran, RHP Eric Hurley, RHP Warner Madrigal, INF Travis Metcalf, RHP Guillermo Moscoso, RHP Alexi Ogando, C Max Ramirez and C Taylor Teagarden.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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