"I'd like to see him get five [innings]. I think he's capable of doing that," said Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo. "If he can get us five good innings, we'll try to piece it together from there. If not, we'll go [to the bullpen] earlier."
Benson has been one of Baltimore's most consistent starters this season, but he missed two consecutive starts last month to rest his ailing elbow. The right-hander's illness isn't expected to cause much of a disruption, though, and he should be able to get back on the mound as soon as some of his symptoms fade.
"Evidently, he had a sore throat a little bit yesterday, but nothing severe," Perlozzo said shortly after deciding on Lopez as his contingency plan. "He woke up this morning and I guess he wasn't feeling very good. He went to the doctor, and we actually had to send him home, because it's contagious."
Benson's second half has been marked by solid pitching and less-than-stellar results. The veteran is just 1-3 with a 4.35 ERA since the All-Star break, and his pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, recently estimated that he could have as many as 15 or 16 wins. Instead, he's 10-10, solidly entrenched as Baltimore's second-winningest starter.
Lopez is just one win behind Benson, but he also has 15 losses. The Orioles moved him to the bullpen to accomodate rookie Hayden Penn, who has struggled heavily through his first two starts. Perlozzo could've tabbed Daniel Cabrera to start Monday's game, but he chose to leave Cabrera for Tuesday and go with Lopez over his other options.
"We threw [Russ] Ortiz two innings [Sunday]. Chen had pitched an inning-plus," he said. "We thought about [Brian] Burres, but we thought we'd give Rodrigo a chance. If he wanted to take it, he could take it."
First things first: Perlozzo was asked if any decisions have been made regarding next year's coaching staff, and he said that he'd like to have answers on that subject shortly after the season ends.
"I'd like to be able to tell the staff very shortly after the season that everybody's coming back or that there are some changes," he said. "I don't like to have people hanging, and I like people to know they're coming back right away."
The manager was also asked how he rates his team's progress. If the Orioles finish this season with a worse record than last season -- and they're currently five games behind the 2005 pace -- will he still consider it a successful year?
"You always want to have a better record. It's not going to be something I'm happy about," he said. "I'll be disappointed, because I have expectations that you always try to meet. Sometimes, they just don't happen. Realistically, there are reasons why you can't get to those.
"There are going to be a whole bunch of teams that leave for home at the same time I do."
Still hurting: LaTroy Hawkins hasn't improved from a strained right groin and may be out for the foreseeable future. Perlozzo said he's still not sure when the reliever will be able to pitch in a game again.
"I wouldn't say he's real close. He tried to go [Sunday] and couldn't," he said. "I'm not even sure he'll make the trip with us, if it doesn't get measurably better."
Quotable: "We'll see how he feels [and] how long it takes. [We'll] see if he can get his strength back." -- Perlozzo, talking about where Benson will slot back into the rotation
Coming up: The Orioles will start a three-game series against the Red Sox on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET, and Cabrera will get the ball in the series opener. Boston will counter with rookie southpaw Kason Gabbard.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less