ST. CHARLES, IL — Despite St. Charles’ proximity to Chicago, many city residents could find themselves rooting for the Texas Rangers next year.
Pitcher Wes Benjamin, who graduated from St. Charles East in 2011, had his first start in Major League Baseball on Wednesday. After a strong performance in which he struck out three Arizona Diamondbacks and left the game with his team leading, some baseball writers are predicting big things for the former Saint.
Sam Blum, of the Dallas Morning News, wrote this week that Benjamin’s first start was “further proof that the 27-year-old is a major league pitcher,” despite his unorthodox path to the MLB.
Benjamin’s professional career started in 2014 while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was drafted by the Rangers after his junior year at the University of Kansas and spent his first five professional seasons pitching in the minor leagues.
He was promoted to the Rangers’ 28-man active roster last month. Including his first MLB start Wednesday, Benjamin has racked up 20 strikeouts in 21-plus innings, giving up 11 runs on 22 hits and three home-runs.
Benjamin is set to finish his first professional season with a 1-1 record, with the Rangers’ season coming to a close this weekend.
T.R. Sullivan, who covers the Texas Rangers for MLB.com, said that while Benjamin did not pick up a win in his first start, “his real victory is positioning himself as a candidate for the 2021 rotation after not even being in big league camp in Spring Training.”
Rangers manager Chris Woodward told Sullivan that Benjamin plays with “a little chip on his shoulder” due to his path to the MLB.
“He has been great, honestly,” Woodward said of Benjamin. “I think he’s got a lot to prove. He has a little chip on his shoulder when he gets out there to prove to the world he belongs up here and can pitch up here.”
Benjamin told Sullivan that his journey to the majors has made him the pitcher he is.
“For me, the road hasn't been quite as easy,” Benjamin said, according to MLB.com. “I've had my teeth kicked in every now and then, and it's made me a better pitcher today, and I'm grateful for it.”