After a month of cortisone shots and rest failed to cure his injured left foot, the first professional baseball season of Juneau's Chad Bentz came to an end last week when he had surgery.
Bentz, a left-handed pitcher who was the seventh-round draft pick of the Montreal Expos in June, had been pitching for the Short-Season Class A Vermont Expos of the New York-Penn League. During the season Bentz developed nerve damage under the fourth toe of his left (plant) foot. Team trainers and doctors tried to treat the injury so Bentz could return to action, but it never healed enough to give him a chance to pitch after his last appearance on July 30.
Finally, Bentz was sent to Montreal for surgery, which effectively ended his season. Bentz finished the summer with a 1-3 record and a 4.91 ERA in eight starts with the Vermont Expos. Bentz allowed 39 hits in 36 2/3 innings, striking out 38 batters while walking 11.
"He had surgery last Wednesday," his mother, Mary Bentz, said. "He had a wad of nerve and scar tissue cut out. He's good. He's on crutches for awhile, but it won't be for long. He wanted to try pitching, even though he wasn't 100 percent, but the team told him to have the surgery."
"Chad's surgery went very well," Vermont Expos general manager C.J. Knudsen said. "He is actually leaving town today (Monday) and making a few stops on the way home, speaking at various schools and locations. He told me he really enjoyed his time here and he's eager to start throwing again. He is in great spirits and a tremendous person."
While Bentz's season is over, another minor league pitcher from Juneau is still in action.
Toby Staveland, a right-handed pitcher who was a 41st-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in 1999, is scheduled to start today for the Jamestown (N.Y.) Jammers of the New York-Penn League. The Jammers are battling for a wildcard playoff spot as their regular-season comes to an end on Wednesday.
Staveland broke a personal two-game losing streak last Monday when he pitched the first five innings of a 6-2 victory over the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays. Staveland, who is in his second season with the Jammers, allowed one earned run on a two-out solo homer in the fifth and one unearned run in the fourth inning.
He brings a 3-2 record and a 4.30 ERA into tonight's game, with 10 starts and 14 total appearances. Staveland has allowed 60 hits in 52 1/3 innings, while striking out 40 and walking 20 batters.
The only other minor leaguer from Juneau, third baseman Rob Conway, finished his first pro season last week with the Cook County (Ill.) Cheetahs of the independent Frontier League.
Conway, who wasn't drafted by a major league team, broke up a perfect game on Aug. 22 when he hit a two-out double in the fifth inning, then scored Cook County's first run on another double as the last-place Cheetahs rallied to claim a 7-0 victory over the Dubois County Dragons.
For the season, Conway had a .296 batting average with 45 hits in 152 at bats, 13 RBIs, 18 runs scored, six doubles, one triple, no homers and five stolen bases. Conway saw his batting average dip to .220 midway through the season, but finished strong to wind up hitting 56 points better than his team's woeful .240 average.
The three Juneau minor leaguers are the only Alaska players currently playing professional baseball. Dustin Krug of Kodiak, a right-handed relief pitcher who had been pitching for the Class AA West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx of the Chicago Cubs organization, was released in July after posting an 0-0 record with a 9.90 ERA this season in seven relief appearances. Krug had pitched four years in the Cubs' organization.