Benoit off to strong start after switching roles, leagues
CINCINNATI -- Joaquin Benoit has performed as advertised in his first six weeks as a member of the Padres, posting a 2.41 ERA (five earned runs in 18 2/3 innings) and a 0.86 WHIP in 18 appearances going into Thursday's doubleheader with the Reds.
The 2014 season has been one of change for the 36-year-old right-hander, who went from setup man to closer for the Tigers last season before reverting to a setup man for Huston Street after signing with the Padres. And that's not to mention pitching in the National League for the first time in his career.
"It's not really an adjustment," Benoit said. "I was just a closer filling up somebody's space [in Detroit]. I feel good, but my mind is set up the same way; getting three outs in the eighth isn't different from getting three outs in the ninth."
Benoit said that though there isn't necessarily an adjustment in mindset, the main difference between the setup role and closing is often the part of the lineup you're facing, which makes things interesting in the eighth vs. the ninth inning.
"I think it's really exciting [in the eighth inning]," Benoit said. "Most of the time, you face the heart of the lineup and have to concentrate better and know who you're facing. Most of the time in the ninth, I think you get the third part of the lineup. Not taking anything away from [closers], but it's a little bit of a different approach."
Now that he's pitching for an NL club for the first time, Benoit said one difference he's noticed is that NL hitters swing more than American League hitters, creating both advantages and disadvantages for him after he pitched in the AL during his first 12 big league seasons.
"I think in the National League, they swing more than in the American League," Benoit said. "That's probably the only difference, but there's a lot of good hitters on this side, too. It's my first experience being in the National League, but I approach every game the same way, trying to get a first-pitch strike and go from there.
"[The higher NL swing rate] could be to my advantage, I think, because since my main concern is to throw first-pitch strikes, they're gonna swing on the first pitch. I think I can use that to my advantage or it could hurt me sometimes, but you just see which way the luck is. That's it."
But the early aggressiveness of NL hitters he's experienced isn't going to change Benoit's approach when it comes to a fresh count.
"No, no, no," Benoit said when asked whether he's considered changing how he attacks hitters at the beginning of an at-bat.