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Updated: March 27th, 2012 8:07am
Joe Benson optioned to minor league camp as Twins continue cuts

Joe Benson optioned to minor league camp as Twins continue cuts

by Phil Mackey
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins are just nine cuts away from a 25-man roster after four more players were sent down the street on Tuesday morning.

Outfielder Joe Benson and right-hander Jeff Manship were optioned to Triple-A Rochester, and catcher Rene Rivera and infielder Pedro Florimon were reassigned to minor league camp.

The Twins now have 34 active players in camp, including 16 pitchers.

In 42 at-bats this spring Benson hit .262/.319/.429 with two home runs. He also made a spectacular catch against the 420-foot sign in center field at jetBlue Park on a deep fly ball by David Ortiz.

On Monday, manager Ron Gardenhire was irritated by Benson's two mental mistakes against the Rays -- not running out a lazy fly ball that wound up dropping, and getting doubled off second base on a line drive.

"We're down five runs, 7-2, in the seventh inning with first and second and no outs, and then Benson gets doubled up," Gardenhire said. "Can't do it. That's Little League (stuff). You gotta go back, when that line drive's hit, you're going back to the bag, it's not even freezing. It's going back and making sure it goes through. You're down five runs with no outs. That's the stuff that's just gotta go. You just got to get rid of it.

"He takes off running to first, hits the ball right, the guy misses it, he starts stopping. This kid runs out every ball as hard as he can run. He's balls out all the time. And the one time that he stops, he doesn't get to second base on that ball. What did the next ball do? Groundball double play. That (stuff) can't happen. That's the stuff that's got to go away. That can't happen."

Even with the mistakes on Monday, Benson is still very highly regarded by Gardenhire and the Twins' front office. With a strong April in Triple-A, he could force some difficult outfield decisions.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd