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Chad Bentz's bid to return to the major leagues was sidetracked Monday when the Washington Nationals placed the left-handed pitcher from Juneau on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release.
Bentz, a 1999 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, was a rookie reliever for the Montreal Expos and spent four months in the majors last season, posting an 0-3 record with a 5.86 ERA. He was sent down to the minors in July to develop a slider, then ended the season on the disabled list because of a nerve problem on the bottom of his right foot and a slight tear in his left shoulder. He was still on the team's 40-man major league roster until Monday's move.
"It was unfortunate news," Bentz said from his parents' Juneau home, where he is visiting for the holidays. "It's part of the business and the game. I got some calls from other teams today. ... It's not the best news, but I know I'm going to play somewhere."
The Expos officially became the Nationals on Monday, and Bentz said he was told the reason he was placed on waivers was so the team could have some roster flexibility for Monday's Rule 5 draft. The Nationals selected two players - outfielder Carlton Godwin and third baseman Tony Blanco - in the Rule 5 draft, which is designed to give long-term minor leaguers a chance to make the majors with another team.
"We need to build depth in our big-league camp in case we have to take a piece to trade," Nationals interim general manager Jim Bowden said in a story about the Rule 5 draft posted on the team's Web site. "We don't have a lot of numbers, so we have to take a pool of players."
When a player is placed on waivers, Bentz said they are available to be picked up by another team for 48 hours. If the player isn't picked up, he then becomes a free agent and can sign with any team. Bentz said the Nationals told him they want to offer him a minor-league contract if he clears waivers, but they needed the spot on the major-league roster.
"It's the best situation possible for what's not a good situation," Bentz said. "I was told by Lenny (Strelitz, Bentz's agent with West Coast Sports) to make a list of the top five teams I'd like to play for and let him know. I'm on MLB.com right now going over rosters, looking to see who needs left-handed pitchers."
Bentz said he'd like to play for a team on the West Coast, and it would be a bonus if the team had spring training in Arizona instead of Florida. He hadn't finalized his list yet, but he said the Anaheim Angels looked good, and so do the San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins and his favorite boyhood team, the Seattle Mariners. He also said the Florida Marlins would be a good team because he knows the pitching coach.
"There's nothing better than starting over," Bentz said. "I liked playing for (Nationals manager) Frank Robinson, he's the best manager I've ever played for. Baseball is a crazy business and even some big-name guys have been released."
Bentz said the surgery he had on his foot went well and he's healed from it, and the slight tear in his shoulder didn't require surgery. He said he's been able to throw without pain now that the shoulder has had time to rest. On Sunday, Bentz was in a Juneau gym working out with the Midnight Suns baseball program.
"Everything happens for a reason," Bentz said. "I'll just go where they need lefties."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.