We’re dropping into the 1990’s as the ‘Phillies 50’ series on the most random 1971-2019 players continues its backwards roll through the last half-century of franchise history.
For the 1999 Phillies there was no pitcher who fit the bill of small impact to that club combined with a minimal big-league playing career than Joel Bennett.
Bennett was a native of Binghamton, New York who was chosen by the Boston Red Sox in the 21st round of the 1991 MLB Amateur Draft out of East Stroudsburg University.
Rising through the Bosox minor league system as a starting pitcher, Bennett reached Triple-A Pawtucket by 1994 and pitched there over the entirety of the 1995 season.
During the fall of 1994 he received an opportunity to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. Bennett was assigned to the Scottsdale Scorpions where he was teammates with none other than Michael Jordan.
“When I first got there, I was walking past the training room and I heard his voice,” Bennett said per Zach Buchanan of The Athletic.
“He was sitting on the training table. I look in and there he is and, whoa, that’s when it really hit me that I was there with him. I went in and introduced myself like, “Hi Michael Jordan, I’m Joel Bennett.” And he goes, “Bennett. You’re the guy with the good curveball, right?” I was like, “What?” It wasn’t like he’d heard of me. My teammates had said there’s one more guy coming, he’s a pitcher, blah blah blah. But that he said that to me blew me away.”
In May 1996 Bennett was released by Boston. Two months later the Baltimore Orioles grabbed him up. After two years in the O’s system they finally gave Bennett his first small taste of life in Major League Baseball when manager Ray Miller used him in a pair of July games that season in relief.
Less than two weeks after that big-league debut he was released by Baltimore, but was signed by the Phillies within a matter of days. Bennett finished up the summer of 1998 pitching at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre in the Phillies system.
In 1999, Bennett would make 20 starts for the Red Barons. He would also receive the call to help out the big club from early May through early June.
On May 8, 1999 manager Terry Francona gave Bennett his first MLB starting opportunity. But the skipper didn’t make it an easy one, sending the 29-year-old to the mound in the launching pad of Coors Field in Denver.
Against the host Colorado Rockies, Bennett earned his first win. He lasted five innings on a Saturday afternoon, surrendering two runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking just one batter. Those two runs came on solo home runs by Dante Bichette and Todd Helton.
Bennett was given two more starting opportunities and then made two appearances out of the bullpen but was not able to recapture the magic of that first performance.
Overall in five appearances, three starts, Bennett went 2-1 with a 9.00 ERA and 1.941 WHIP. He allowed 17 earned runs on 26 hits over 17 innings with a 13/7 K:BB ratio.
Those would be the final five appearances in Major League Baseball for Bennett’s career. He returned to the Boston organization and pitched one more season in 2000 in their minor league system.
Still unwilling to call it quits, Bennett pitched for seven seasons from 2001-07 with the New Jersey Jackals of independent ball before calling it a career at age 37 after the 2007 campaign.