Benjamin waits through projections, rehab
East product underwent Tommy John surgery in April
Wes Benjamin shed the cast and brace supporting his surgically repaired left elbow two weeks ago.
He still figures he may not feel fully unshackled until the weekend.
There's lots of data for Benjamin to digest as the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft begins today and continues through Saturday. The good and bad news: Every club to contact the Kansas junior left-hander from St. Charles East has been up-front about Benjamin's injury status since his April 10 Tommy John surgery.
"I can't really trust what anyone tells me yet because they can tell you one thing and it may come around and it may not happen," Benjamin said. "That's what kind of happened to me out of high school. Anything is possible and you pretty much have to wait to see your name called before you know it's real."
Drafted by the New York Yankees in the 48th round in 2011, Benjamin elected to honor his scholarship to Kansas, where he eventually blossomed into the Jayhawks' No. 1 pitcher.
Baseball America rated Benjamin as the No. 12 future pro in the Big 12 Conference entering 2014, a pedigree he began to honor by opening the season 4-0 with a 4.22 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings.
Benjamin experienced some soreness and inflammation in his left forearm as the season approached April, but thought it was nothing to be concerned about. His velocity consistently ranged from 90 to 94 mph while his breaking pitches improved with each start.
On March 28, his fortunes shifted. Benjamin left in the third inning of a start against Oklahoma after feeling a pain near his elbow that persisted well after he scheduled an MRI. The results revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament requiring lengthy rehab.
"You try and do it right the first time rather than having to do it multiple times," Benjamin said. "That's the plan, anyway. At least a year, probably."
Before the season, Benjamin heard projections he'd be a second-day draftee, selected anywhere from the third through 10th rounds. These days, he's very much uncertain about anything other than his mellow demeanor toward it all.
The draft slots, potential signing bonuses, everything.
"I feel like if I think about it too much," he said, "it's going to drive me crazy."
Benjamin returned home from Lawrence, Kansas, on Monday after the Jayhawks were eliminated Sunday from their first NCAA tournament in five years.
He maintains a rehab regimen of shoulder and other range-of-motion exercises and has been cleared to run "fairly fast" but not sprint.
Should a team draft him, Benjamin knows he would be slated to rehab with that club after signing. While he wouldn't see the field for awhile, experiencing an organization's ins and outs is part of a starting itinerary, anyway.
Conversely, Benjamin would be comfortable pitching at Kansas for a truncated senior season if the right professional opportunity does not surface.
Whatever happens, Benjamin will rely on his support system as well as his abbreviated workload this spring to help him through the waiting.
"I wish I could have kept going," Benjamin said, "but at least I know what I'm capable of and can get back to to that this coming year."
Troop on radar, too: Like Benjamin three years ago, Marmion senior lefty Alex Troop enters the draft with a college scholarship to weigh against potential pro suitors.
A Michigan State recruit from Batavia, Troop compiled a 0.13 ERA – that's one earned run in 53 innings – while striking out 103. Both his innings and strikeouts totals clipped the former program records of Matt Milroy, a fellow Batavian now pitching in the Miami Marlins system.
Cadets coach Dave Rakow relied on his dealings with scouts during Milroy's senior season as more new faces sprouted at Troop's starts.
"Most of the guys blend in," Rakow said. "I don't think they want you to know who they are, but then all of a sudden they have a radar gun out."