Twins Give Benson A Break With FSL Sojourn

MINNEAPOLIS—Demoting a player at midseason is the development equivalent of lighting a stove with a gasoline can and a book of matches.

You're trying to ignite a fire, but the possibility of blowing something up is very real. This is especially true when the prospect is as volatile as five-tool outfielder Joe Benson, whom the Twins demoted to high Class A Fort Myers in mid-May.

"We know how dangerous it can be to send someone back. A kid can read it as, 'We've given up,' or 'We have less interest in you now,' " vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said.

"It was thoroughly discussed. Many conversations with many people, and we made sure Joe understood what we were doing and why."

What they were doing was trying to relax Benson, a 22-year-old who opened the year with Double-A New Britain by hitting .219/.346/.419 through 105 at-bats. The Twins were convinced their 2006 second-round pick was taking his slow start too hard.

Recruited as a running back by Purdue, Benson has a football player's intensity. He sabotaged his 2009 season, after all, by punching a fence post in frustration, breaking his hand.

"We always believed he'll hit for power. The swing, the raw strength and bat speed are still there, and he's a plus outfielder" Radcliff said. "It was a matter of relaxing and letting his talent take over."

A month at Fort Myers did the trick. "I took a little pressure off myself," Benson told the Bristol (Conn.) Press upon his return, "and got to find myself again at the plate."

Back in Double-A, Benson had commenced rocketing baseballs, though the Twins would like him to cut down on his strikeouts. He had fanned in about one-third of his at-bats for the Rock Cats.

After hitting only one home run in April, Benson led the Twins system with 22 homers, 13 of which came after his mid-June return to New Britain. In those 52 games he batted .255/.315/.582, and his .851 OPS on the year completely obscured his tough start.

"It was a risk," Radcliff said, "but Joe handled it perfectly."


• New Britain outfielder Ben Revere will miss the rest of the season after suffering two orbital fractures near his right eye as the result of being hit by a pitch on Aug. 3.

• First-round pick Alex Wimmers, a righthander from Ohio State, signed a week before the deadline for a slot-recommended bonus of $1.322 million. That's more than $500,000 less than what the Twins paid 2009 first-rounder Kyle Gibson, who also was a college righthander.