01/04/2007 11:40 AM ET
Benoit: A decade with the Rangers
Longtime Rangers right-hander Joaquin Benoit appeared in a career-high 56 games in 2006. (Gail Burton/AP)
To me, the 10 years I've spent with the Texas Rangers organization have gone by very fast. If you asked baseball fans here, I don't know if they would consider me a longtime player with the Rangers, but a decade is a long time, especially with one club. It feels like it was yesterday that I signed with this team.
When I first signed with the Rangers in 1996, the club had a small presence in the Dominican Republic. At that time, I had tried out in the Dominican Republic with the Dodgers, but that didn't work out. Then the Cleveland organization came to look at me when my team was playing in a tournament near my hometown (Santiago). A lot of Rangers prospects were also playing in the tournament, and one of the scouts noticed me. That's how I ended up in the Texas organization.
Down there, most players don't have much say about which team will sign them. A lot of it depends on timing and luck. Luckily for me, the Rangers saw something in me and took a chance by signing me, and I've been with them ever since.
When I first came to the U.S. to play ball, my fastball was coming in at 94 to 97 mph. I was young, excited and had yet to really hone my pitching skills, so I would rely more on velocity than placement and pitch type. I have good control now, but it's developed more as I've gained experience.
I'm a reliever now, but I've gone from starter to reliever to starter and back to reliever again with the Rangers. If you look at my stats, my best numbers as a starter have always come in innings one through four. After that, I've had a tendency to fade. The coaching staff noticed my numbers were better in relief and finally decided to play to my strengths. So 2006 was the first year I was used exclusively as a reliever, and I think it worked out well.
In 2005, I was a middle reliever and then a setup man at the end of the season. This past year, I was used more as a short guy, appearing in about two innings per outing. I'm a bit more mature now, and I think I'm just hitting the prime of my career.
I have a lot of fun in the bullpen. It's great that I have a few fellow countrymen down there and a handful of Latin players on the team with me. It's something that is quite special to me. Two years ago, we had a similar bullpen where Spanish was spoken frequently.
But the main thing is to get everyone on the same page, regardless of his birthplace, so we can have a successful season.
One of the guys in our bullpen who doesn't speak Spanish is Akinori Otsuka, who is from Japan. We've been trying to learn from each other. He's trying. He's a great guy and a good teammate to have. His head is always in the game, and he shows up to the ballpark every day ready to play. It's been a pleasure to watch him so far. He's the man for any occasion.
I've enjoyed all of my time here, and I believe I've learned a lot. There have been bad times and good times with the Rangers, as in life, but I wouldn't trade my experience for anything.
Joaquin Benoit has spent parts of the last six seasons with the Rangers. The 29-year-old right-hander enjoyed his best campaign in 2005, when he posted a 3.72 ERA over 32 appearances (nine starts). He appeared in a career-high 56 games as a full-time reliever this past season.