Penny outing is on money
Righthander impresses Epstein
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Reaching 95 miles per hour to a couple of batters in the first of three innings, Brad Penny put forth an outing that general manager Theo Epstein called "impressive" yesterday. Penny, who has had trouble with arm strength this spring, was pitching in his first game with the Red Sox, though that game was played at the minor league complex with minor league players.
With Josh Beckett and Justin Masterson coming to Field 3 for support, Penny threw 41 pitches (30 strikes) over three innings. The first inning, according to pitching coach John Farrell, "was probably as crisp as he's shown at any point in time and certainly in this camp."
"I think today was significantly improved over his outing of five days ago," Farrell said. "I thought his arm strength and command of his fastball was improved over his previous time, which again is a benchmark, not an end-all. But I thought the definition to his pitches, getting up and down three times with the three innings today, was primarily the goal to get him close to 45 pitches."
The one problem Penny said he experienced was slight trouble with his breaking ball, leaving it inside to righties.
Because Penny came through the outing fine physically, Farrell said the next step would be a major league game. That is scheduled for Monday against Detroit, in which Penny will likely go another three innings and 45 to 50 pitches. The righthander is, Farrell estimated, about two starts behind the rest of the starters in camp, but should have time for three more starts before the team needs to determine his readiness for the regular season.
"Just by the velocity indicated, 93 to 95, was again a major step forward for him," Farrell said. "There are some tests that we have to go through. That's more endurance-related, getting him up and down four and five times. But that's all part of a normal progression that any pitcher goes through. So again, we're talking about the baseball aspect of it rather than the physical side of things."
Penny believes he will be ready by the time the regular season starts. But for the Red Sox, who have unusual depth in their rotation, that's not a major issue, especially because a fifth starter won't be needed until April 12.
"It's really not a huge concern whether he's ready for that first time around the rotation or shortly thereafter," Epstein said. "What's more important is that he gets up to 100 percent and gets into position where he's going to handle a load over the course of the whole season. That's something we won't be able to answer until closer to the season, but I think he has a chance to be."
Not that it's been easy. But at least things have gone according to schedule.
"When I look back, I'm going to look back and go, 'Everything was great,' " Smoltz said. "When you're going through it, there are days when you get frustrated, whether you're 100 percent healthy or not."
With some feedback from him, the righthander has been doing everything in line with the timetable set by the Red Sox, even though he can sense that the days of solely rehabbing and playing catch are nearing an end.
"I've been through this a lot to know that it's going to run its course," Smoltz said. "I come in with a job to do. Stay focused to it, do whatever you have to do."
Adam Kilgore of the Globe staff contributed to this report.