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Next test is set for Benson

The Phillies signed righthander Kris Benson to a minor-league contract in February because they figured he could help them before June 1.

The Phillies signed righthander

Kris Benson

to a minor-league contract in February because they figured he could help them before June 1.

That won't happen.

Benson, who missed last season following right rotator cuff surgery, has been shut down twice since he started his comeback with the Phillies with right bicep tendinitis and a strained right groin. Benson seems to be past the groin injury, and is scheduled to throw a simulated game tomorrow and again Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla. If he feels OK after that, he is scheduled to pitch in an extended-spring-training game May 26.

Benson can opt out of his contract with the Phillies on June 1 if he so chooses. Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. wouldn't comment on the opt-out date, but he also didn't seem too concerned about it because Benson is not close to being ready to pitch in the majors.

Does he still see Benson helping the Phillies at some point this season?

"If we see some progression over the next couple of weeks, yeah," Amaro said.

That's important because the Phillies' rotation is the team's weak spot. Three starters have a 5.02 ERA or higher and Kyle Kendrick has a 4.87 ERA.

Fixing Myers

It's a little bit here and there with

Brett Myers.

It's pitch location and pitch selection. It's confidence and aggressiveness.

The Phillies also said it's not his health, conditioning or stuff.

"He's doing what he needs to do," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "He's working at it. It's not like he's just left it alone and ignored the problem."

Myers, who allowed eight runs in 41/3 innings Wednesday, is 2-4 with a 5.91 ERA, the fourth-worst ERA in the National League. That's something that must improve for the Phillies to remain competitive in the NL East.

"Every time he's making a mistake, they're not missing it," Dubee said. "It's a fine line. We're trying to get him to use his fastball, but at the same time he started the first nine hitters off with fastballs. And they're no dummies over there. So Kelly Johnson, after seeing six straight heaters to the first six batters Brett faced, he just jumped on the first-pitch fastball [and homered in the second inning].

"Brett knows we need him and he's feeling a little of that weight. Maybe he needs to relax a little bit more. You're talking about the guy that was the opening-day starter last year and threw the last pitch to clinch the division title last year. He knows what it's like to be a big part of this team. Sometimes I think he's just trying a little too hard."

Myers said he thought he threw some good pitches Wednesday.

"He's got to be a little more realistic about that because some of those pitches weren't good pitches," Dubee said. "But at the same time he has to relax a little bit and allow his physical talent to take care of itself. I think he's just trying to win six games in one outing. It's like a hitter in a slump."

Coste to Coste

Chris Coste

earned a second straight start, which meant he caught

Cole Hamels

for the first time this season.

Coste went 4 for 4 in Wednesday's 8-6 loss to the Braves. He is hitting .339 with three homers and eight RBIs in 62 at-bats after going 1 for 3. Carlos Ruiz is hitting .234 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 94 at-bats. But Ruiz has hit just .203 in his career against lefthanders, compared with .272 against righthanders.

That made the decision easier for manager Charlie Manuel with the Phillies facing lefthander Chuck James.

"I look at Coste as a guy who can catch three or four days a week," Manuel said. "And with a lefty starting today, Chooch [Ruiz] has had trouble against lefties. The first thing that entered my mind is do I play Coste or Chooch? And I chose Coste tonight."

Mathieson has surgery

Righthander Scott Mathieson had Tommy John surgery yesterday. Recovery is expected to take up to a year, although pitchers who have had two Tommy John surgeries like Mathieson - he had his first Sept. 29, 2006 - have only about a 30 percent success rate, compared with 80 percent to 90 percent for first-timers.

- Todd Zolecki