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The Twins unfortunate rash of injuries in 2011 exposed an alarming lack of depth in their minor league system. Of all the players recalled from Triple A, only Ben Revere looks like a potential everyday big leaguer. Things got so bad the team reached all the way down to Double A in September and gave two of their more highly regarded prospects, Chris Parmalee and Joe Benson a shot in the big leagues.
Benson was selected 2nd round by the Twins in 2006 out of Hinsdale, IL. The outfielder hit .265/.359/.443 with 62 homeruns in 570 minor league games while working his way up the organization’s ladder. He was rated the 100th best prospect by Baseball America heading into this season. The 23-year-old and I hooked up during the season’s final days to discuss his career and future.
DZ: You’ve had a pretty eventful year and it’s ended up here, can you just talk a little about that?
BENSON: The season started out pretty good for me. I started in Double A, it was my first year working with Tom Brunansky there…I had some problems with my knee, I had to get it scoped back in June. I missed about four weeks. After I came back to New Britian, we took it to the last day, ended up losing, but had a chance to make a playoff spot. Me and Chris (Parmalee) got an opportunity to come up here for almost all of September and got to play quite a bit. It’s been a great experience altogether.
DZ: Where were you when you found out about the call-up?
BENSON: It was the last day of the season, we had just lost, we were all in the clubhouse and Jeff Smith, our manager, kind of announced to the entire team so we could celebrate with everyone as a whole.
DZ: Did you see it coming? Were you totally surprised?
BENSON: I thought there might be a chance when…they only took a few guys from Triple A. A couple of guys on the coaching staff in Double A kind of hinted towards having the chance to go up and get a shot in September.
DZ: Before you got up here, how many big league ballparks had you been to?
BENSON: Quite a few. I grew up going to a lot of Cubs and (White) Sox games, so I had been to US Cellular and Wrigley. Went to PacBell, did a workout at the Metrodome, did a workout at Minute Maid and just being in random towns and getting a chance to go – Yankee Stadium last summer. It’s nothing like actually being inside the locker room and getting to be out of the field of these stadiums.
DZ: How cool was it to have Parmalee come up here with you just to kind of ease the transition a little bit?
BENSON: It was awesome. Me and Parms have spent only about a week apart in our whole minor league time. To get to share this with him also has been special. We went through a lot of the same problems, the same ups and downs in the minor leagues since ’06. It was fun to share it with him.
DZ: You’ve come up two levels (from Double A)….what’s that like?
BENSON: They say the biggest transition is between Double or Triple A to the big leagues, but once you play in Double A, they are quite a few guys in the league who are actually called up during the season.
DZ: You got No. 63, is that just something they gave you?
BENSON: Yeah, I wasn’t asking for any kind of a different number. I’ll take whatever I got.
DZ: One last thing, what do you have planned for the offseason?
BENSON: I am playing in the Venezuelan winter league October 9 to December 7 and then rest and be with friends and family until spring training.
See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players:
September 29: Denard Span
September 3: Rene Tosoni
August 30: Matt Capps
August 9: Jason Kubel
July 26: Luke Hughes
July 19: Glen Perkins
July 17: Ben Revere
July 3: Scott Baker
June 13: Rene Rivera
June 10: Nick Blackburn
June 2: Trevor Plouffe
May 31: Phil Dumatrait
May 28: Justin Morneau
May 24: Denard Span
May 1: Jim Hoey
April 28: Jason Kubel
April 19: Jeff Manship
April 15: Dusty Hughes