– The Twins and outfielder Joe Benson parted ways on Saturday as the former second-round draft pick was claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers.

The Twins placed Benson on waivers in order to outright him off their 40-man roster and clear a spot for righthander P.J. Walters, who started on Saturday. A six-year minor league free agent at the end of the season, Benson was batting .192 with one home run and nine RBI in 42 games at Class AAA Rochester.

“We thought if he would ever pass through waivers this would be the time,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said.

But the Rangers, 28th on the waiver pecking order, claimed him and assigned him to Class AA Frisco.

Antony called Benson on Saturday to inform him of the move and said Benson thanked the organization for everything it had done for him.

“He was upbeat over the phone,” Antony said. “I think he views this as a fresh start.”

Benson, a second-round pick in 2006, was the Twins’ minor league player of the year in 2010 and made his major league debut in 2011. Last season, he had wrist and knee injuries and batted just .179 at Rochester and .184 at Class AA New Britain. He reported to spring training with a chance of winning the starting center field job but lost out to Aaron Hicks.

The Twins boasted good center field depth as recently as a year ago, but trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere during the offseason and Benson’s joining Texas have weakened the position. After Hicks, their next center fielder might be phenom Byron Buxton at Class A Cedar Rapids.

Hit King Mauer

Joe Mauer looked over the list and was clearly impressed.

“It’s a pretty cool list,” he said.

He’s on top of it, of course.

Mauer entered Saturday leading all active players with a .324 career batting average. He didn’t hurt his ranking Saturday by going 3-for-4.

Slides by the Angels’ Albert Pujols and the Yankees’ Ichiro Suzuki have helped Mauer rise to the top. Pujols has batted .294 since 2009, pulling his career mark to .323. Ichiro has hit .286 since 2009, dropping his average to .3208.

Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who entered Saturday batting .388 this season, has his career average up to .3205. “He’s one of the best righthanded hitters I’ve seen,” Mauer said.

Cincinnati’s Joey Votto (.319) rounds out the top five.


• Chris Colabello singled up the middle in the sixth inning on Saturday for his first major league hit.

• Wilkin Ramirez crashed into Josh Willingham as the two converged on a fly ball in the sixth. Ramirez took the worst of the collision and was down for a couple of moments before leaving the game as a precaution. He was checked out and does not have anything other than a sore jaw where he ran into Willingham’s forearm.