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01/28/09 5:00 PM EST

Benoit may be lost for season

Rangers righty has surgery to repair torn rotator cuff

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, still over two weeks away from Spring Training, have suffered another major setback in their pitching staff.

Right-hander Joaquin Benoit underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder and could be lost for the season. The procedure was done in Cincinnati by Timothy Kremchek, the Reds' team physician, who indicated the surgery went better than expected and that there is a chance Benoit could be back for the second half of the season.

The Rangers have already lost rotation candidate Eric Hurley for the season with a torn rotator cuff.

Benoit was the Rangers' Pitcher of the Year in 2007, when he went 7-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 70 games. He was rewarded with a two-year, $6 million contract after the season but hasn't been healthy since.

His shoulder was a problem all of last season, when he went 3-2 with a 5.00 ERA in 44 games. He was hurt coming out of Spring Training and finally went on the disabled list on July 3 with what was described as shoulder inflammation. He was activated a month later but did not pitch after Sept. 7.

"Joaquin was affected most of last season, and it didn't allow him to perform to his abilities," said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. "He attempted to rehab the injury this offseason. He worked hard, but the results weren't there. From all accounts, the surgery went well and he can begin the process of strengthening his shoulder now."

The Rangers were hoping that Benoit would be a major part of their bullpen as a setup reliever behind right-handed closer Frank Francisco and left-handed reliever C.J. Wilson. Now, they have a significant void to fill before Opening Day.

The best right-handed relievers on the free-agent market include Juan Cruz (4-0, 2.61 in 2007), Luis Ayala (2-10, 5.71), Eric Gagne (4-3, 5.44), Keith Foulke (0-3, 4.06), Rudy Seanz (5-4, 3.53), Russ Springer (2-1, 2.32) and Jamey Wright (8-7, 5.12).

The leading candidates from within are Josh Rupe (3-1, 5.14), Warner Madrigal (0-2, 4.75) and Luis Mendoza (3-8, 8.67). Starting-rotation candidates Brandon McCarthy, Dustin Nippert and Scott Feldman could also work out of the bullpen and have to some degree in their careers.

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