Benson to make Triple-A start

Benson to make Triple-A start

OAKLAND -- Feeling it's time for a challenge, the Phillies have sent rehabbing pitcher Kris Benson to Triple-A Lehigh Valley for his June 29 start.

The right-hander had gone 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA in two outings for Single A Clearwater. He fared much better in his second outing, allowing one run on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings, while walking one and striking out three.

He'll face Syracuse, the Triple-A affiliate of the Blue Jays.

"It's important for him to be challenged and to get a better assessment on how he will handle pitching against better competition," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "His velocity has been more consistent and he's had better arm speed. His stuff was better all around."

Amaro offered that Benson's fastball was consistently clocked at 88-89 mph, with some improvement expected still to come. He's scheduled to throw five innings or 80 pitches, though that total might be expanded.

Regardless of how well Benson performs, it's too early to predict when he might join the Phillies' rotation, and who he might replace.

"I think he's feeling a little more comfortable, a little stronger," Amaro said. "A lot depends on how much more he improves."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.