There was just one healthy lefty remaining in the Montreal Expos' spring training bullpen this weekend, and it was Juneau's Chad Bentz.
The door for Bentz to make the major leagues may have been opened this past week when the Expos traded their only other healthy left-handed relief pitcher - Randy Choate - to the Arizona Diamondbacks for right-handed starter John Patterson.
Both traded players were out of minor-league options, so they would have to be placed on waivers before they could be sent to the minor leagues, making them available to any other major league club.
The Thursday trade followed an elbow injury to Joey Eischen that required surgery last week. Eischen, Montreal's only other bullpen lefty, is expected to miss the first month of the season recuperating from the injury.
"I prefer not to (have an all right-handed bullpen). We will go with people who have the best chance of getting hitters out," Expos manager Frank Robinson said through a press release posted on the team's Web site.
Bentz, a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate who is hoping to become just the second player to make the majors who grew up in Alaska, pitched for the Expos' Class AA farm team last year, the Harrisburg (Pa.) Senators. He was a seventh-round pick by Montreal in the 2001 draft and was added to the Expos' 40-man winter major league roster in late October. Rosters are cut to 25 players during spring training.
After a shaky start in his first major league spring training, Bentz has performed well in his last several games. He gave up his first run in five games on Saturday, but bounced back to pitch a scoreless third of an inning in Sunday's 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers, setting up Rocky Biddle for the save.
So far this spring, Bentz has no decisions or saves in 10 appearances, posting a 3.18 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. He's allowed 12 hits, four runs (all earned) and four walks, and has eight strikeouts.
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