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11/01/07 1:52 PM ET

O's decline to bring back Benson

Club decides not to pick up option on right-hander's contract

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles declined to exercise the option in Kris Benson's contract Thursday, clearing the way for the right-hander to become a free agent. Benson underwent surgery in March to repair a partially-torn right rotator cuff and missed the entire season, but he'll still be an interesting target in a free-agent market thin on pitching.

Benson, who went 11-12 with a 4.82 ERA for the Orioles in 2006, pitched with a similar shoulder condition for multiple seasons. He notified Baltimore's front office of pain in his shoulder right before the deadline to report to Spring Training, and he spent most of the exhibition season working through a rehabilitation and strengthening program.

The former first-round Draft pick previously had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow, and he missed half of the 2003 season with a case of shoulder tendinitis. Benson shook off those arm woes to make 30 starts in 2006. Baltimore replaced him in the 2007 rotation with fellow veteran Steve Trachsel, who was subsequently traded to Chicago late in the season.

Benson has a 68-73 record and a 4.34 ERA for his career and he's been traded twice. Pittsburgh, the team that took him with the first overall pick in 1996, traded him to the Mets in 2004. Benson pitched in New York for 18 months before being sent to Baltimore in exchange for former closer Jorge Julio and starting pitcher John Maine.

Baltimore allowed veteran starter Jaret Wright's contract to lapse, and center fielder Corey Patterson and backup catcher Paul Bako have both filed for free agency in the last few days. The Orioles will retain exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents until Nov. 12, when the entire process starts in earnest.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.