Bentz keeps his cool in first outing

Teammates give Juneau alum a souvenir after his first majors appearance

Posted: Friday, April 09, 2004

If Chad Bentz was nervous before making his major league debut Wednesday, he didn't show it.

The 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, a left-handed relief pitcher for the Montreal Expos, entered Wednesday's game against the Florida Marlins with one out in the seventh inning.

Manager Frank Robinson called on Bentz to make switch-hitter Abraham Nunez bat right-handed. Nunez grounded out. Juan Pierre then singled on an 0-2 pitch, but Bentz got Luis Castillo to ground out to end the inning.

"I don't know what it meant beyond the game, but I know what it meant during the game," Robinson said. "He stepped up. He went out there, game like that, first game in the big leagues, and first pitch was strike one. He was very composed like he's been in the majors 20 years."

After the game, Montreal closer Rocky Biddle, a former Long Beach State teammate, had all the Expos sign the lineup card so it could be given to Bentz.

Bentz thought his debut would come in the opener Tuesday. He was up and throwing twice in the bullpen but didn't get the call. Bentz was nervous then, but he was much more confident Wednesday.

"It was a great feeling," he said. "My legs weren't shaking like everybody was saying they would."

Bentz was born with a deformed right hand, what he calls his "birthmark," and pitches and catches with his left hand, switching his glove between hands the way Abbott did.

"On the field, I'm not any different," Bentz said. "I'm just like any left-handed pitcher trying to get guys out. Off the field, yeah, I might be a little different."

Jim Abbott, born without a right hand, made his major league debut after a standout collegiate career at Michigan. He spent 10 years in the big leagues and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting in 1991. He also threw a no-hitter when he was with the New York Yankees.

Bentz called Abbott his biggest influence and doesn't mind being lumped together.

Teammate Carl Everett, though, said people were "reading too much into" Bentz's handicap.

"He wants to be known as a ballplayer," Everett said. "He doesn't want to be known as a pitcher with one hand."

Bentz did not pitch in Thursday's game, a 3-0 loss to the Marlins.

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