KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Jeff Bennett lost so much weight after last season that Braves manager Bobby Cox didn’t recognize him at the start of spring training.
Cox knows Bennett now.
Bennett pitched four scoreless innings in Atlanta’s 10-2 win over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, extending to 11 his streak of scoreless innings this spring.
Bennett probably secured a roster spot as a reliever even before proving in his last two appearances he also can deliver as a fill-in starter.
Bennett gave up only one hit with two walks and three strikeouts against Washington.
Bennett has allowed only three hits and no runs in seven innings in two starts since John Smoltz was held out with stiffness in his right shoulder on Friday.
"He hasn’t given up anything, hardly, and throws a lot of strikes, a lot of ground balls," Cox said. "A pretty important guy, I would say."
Mark Teixeira was 2-for-3 with a double and a two-run homer and Martin Prado drove in three runs with two hits for Atlanta.
Bennett, 27, was 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts late last season.
"He’s just as impressive this spring as he was last year," Cox said.
Bennett is in his second season since missing the 2006 season following Tommy John surgery. He lost about 54 pounds, from 262 to 208, last year, with much of the weight loss coming after the season.
The Braves led 5-2 before scoring five runs in the eighth off Ray King. Prado drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single. Brent Lillibridge followed with a two-run triple.Notes: Washington placed C Johnny Estrada (right elbow) on the 15-day disabled list. OF Ryan Langerhans, IF Pete Orr, LHP John Lannan and RHP Chris Schroder were sent to Triple-A Columbus as the Nationals finalized their 25-man roster. ... Braves left fielder Joe Borchard made a leaping catch in front of the wall to take a possible home run away from Lastings Milledge in the seventh. Milledge hit the drive off Peter Moylan.