Aug 24, 2009, 3:06 PM EDT
Boston dumping Brad Penny from the rotation certainly shouldn’t be shocking to anyone, but that the move is taking place in mid-August and involves Penny being bounced in favor of Junichi Tazawa rather than John Smoltz is pretty surprising.
Prior to Smoltz joining the Red Sox there was all kinds of talk about whether they should part with Penny to make room in the rotation, but they kept both and then Smoltz’s struggles made it a moot point. However, Penny definitely pitched his way out of the rotation by going 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA and 89/42 K/BB ratio in 131.2 innings spread over 24 starts, including 0-4 with a 9.11 ERA in his last five outings.
He’ll move to the bullpen for now while Tazawa makes one more start, and then Tim Wakefield’s return from the disabled list could shake things up further. Penny is one of just seven AL starters with an average fastball velocity of at least 94.0 miles per hour and he threw the pitch more often than any other starter in the league except for Jeff Niemann of the Rays, relying on his heater 72.4 percent of the time. All of which tells you that getting major-league hitters out involves a lot more than just throwing really hard.
Meanwhile, after watching Smoltz toss five shutout innings with nine strikeouts in his return to the NL yesterday the Cardinals are apparently convinced that he was tipping his pitches while getting knocked around in the AL. Tony La Russa told reporters yesterday that “it’s pretty clear he was tipping his pitches” while Smoltz said merely that he “very well could have been.”
We may never know the truth on that, but whatever the case moving to the NL and being on schedule to face the Padres, Nationals, and Pirates in his first three starts gives Smoltz every opportunity to succeed. I’ll have to double-check the Cardinals’ schedule to be certain, but I’m pretty sure that his fourth start would be against the Little League World Series runner-ups.
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