Montreal Expos pitcher Chad Bentz of Juneau was optioned to the Edmonton Trappers of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League on Thursday.
The Expos will promote left-handed starting pitcher Scott Downs from Edmonton today to fill the spot on the roster vacated by Bentz. Downs, who will be in his third stint with the Expos, is scheduled to start on Saturday when the Expos play the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto.
Bentz, a 24-year-old rookie left-handed reliever, was sent to the minors to work on his situational pitching, according to a press release and a notes package posted on the Montreal Expos' Web site. Bentz told MLB.com reporter Bill Ladson that the Expos want him to work on getting left-handed hitters out.
"I'm taking this as going forward," Bentz told Ladson. "It's a bummer, but it's part of the game. I'm going to do my best to get better down there."
Bentz made 31 relief appearances this season with the Expos, posting an 0-2 record with a 5.03 ERA in 19 2/3 innings. Bentz allowed 18 hits, 11 runs (all earned), gave up 14 walks and struck out 14 hitters. He also hit two batters.
While he was the only lefty pitcher in Montreal's bullpen for most of the season, Bentz was an anomaly because he did better against right-handed hitters than lefties. In nine innings, lefties were hitting .308 (12 for 39) against Bentz with two home runs and five RBIs. In 10 2/3 innings, righties hit .171 against him.
During a visit to Seattle on June 11-13, Montreal pitching coach Randy St. Claire said the Expos were working with Bentz on developing a slider to get lefties out.
But, he said, most pitchers learn the slider when they're still pitching at the minor-league level and not when they're in the majors.
Bentz, who was born with a deformed right hand and uses his left hand to both field and pitch, is just the second player who grew up in Alaska to make it to the major leagues.
Right-handed pitcher Marshall Boze of Kenai, who played for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1994, was the first person who played his high school or American Legion baseball in Alaska to make it to the majors.
While he had struggled in his first season in the majors, Bentz had shown improvement. Bentz had an ERA of 7.04 in 11 appearances (7 2/3 innings) for April, and an ERA of 5.68 in 12 appearances (6 1/3 innings) in May. His ERA was 1.59 in eight appearances (5 2/3 innings) in June.
Bentz's last appearance with the Expos came on Wednesday, when he made three pitches and got two groundouts in the seventh inning of Montreal's 5-2 loss to Philadelphia.
Bentz now reports to the Trappers, who are concluding a series in Tucson, Ariz., tonight against the Tucson Sidewinders. The Trappers then return to Edmonton, Alberta, where they will host the Portland Beavers for four games starting on Saturday.
The demotion of Bentz means the Expos have just one lefty reliever in the bullpen, Joe Horgan, who made his major league debut on June 12.
In Thursday's 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, Horgan gave up one hit, two walks and both runs in just one-third of an inning.
The promotion of Downs will give the Expos their first lefty starter since he was with the team last August. Downs was 8-3 with a 2.89 ERA for Edmonton this season and was one of two Edmonton players selected to play in the Class AAA All-Star Game. Downs threw a no-hitter on June 11, beating the Las Vegas 51s 4-0.