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With Smoltz looming, will Red Sox cash in Penny?

Jun 12, 2009, 11:54 AM EDT

John Smoltz’s final minor-league rehab start was rained out last night,
so instead he’ll take the mound at Triple-A today and also push back
his Red Sox debut slightly. Here’s what manager Terry Francona had to
say about his impending arrival:

After he pitches, we’ll sit down with Smoltzy and just make sure
we’re all on the same page. When I say on the same page, he’s been
tremendous. We are on the same page. But, again, when you activate
somebody, there has to be another move. He understands that. Our next
move is to wait for him to get done pitching, sit down with him, see
how he comes through his start, and then we’ll go from there.

In other words, the Red Sox’s rotation is already filled with five
veteran starters and one of them–or perhaps more accurately Brad
Penny–will likely be given the boot for Smoltz. Of course, Penny shut
out the Yankees for six innings last night and afterward replied “I don’t want to do that” when asked about possibly moving to the bullpen to make room in the rotation for Smoltz.

On the other hand Smoltz indicated last week
that he’d be willing to fill whichever role the Red Sox ask of him, so
convincing him to work his way into the rotation gradually by perhaps
skipping starts or working as a reliever could be an option if the team
wants to delay a decision on Penny (and see first hand what type of
stuff Smoltz has these days).

Another option is, of course, trading Penny. He certainly hasn’t
been great so far, but Penny has a 4.10 ERA and 38/9 K/BB ratio in 48.1
innings since a poor April and there are obviously plenty of teams that
could use him in their rotation. If the various rumors are true the Red
Sox have definitely been shopping Penny around, but the situation is
complicated somewhat by the fact that he can veto any trade through
Monday.

Unless they can find good value in a trade for Penny the Red Sox may
be best off keeping both pitchers around for a while, provided that
Smoltz was truthful about his role flexibility. Assuming that Smoltz
will jump right into the mix and remain healthy for the rest of the
season is far from safe and there’s no reason to give up an asset like
Penny for a rotation switch that may not even prove to be a significant
upgrade.

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