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Red Sox notebook

Penny's start delayed

Jed Lowrie went 2 for 3, including a double, in the 9-8 loss to the Reds yesterday. Jed Lowrie went 2 for 3, including a double, in the 9-8 loss to the Reds yesterday. (Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / March 4, 2009
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - Brad Penny will not make his first appearance tomorrow as scheduled, his start pushed back because his right shoulder became "a little tired" during a bullpen session Sunday, he said. Penny did not reinjure his shoulder, but both he and the Red Sox want to proceed with caution. The issue is not the health of the shoulder, but its strength.

"It felt pretty good," Penny said. "It's just, I don't think the shoulder strength is quite where it needed to be yet for the workload I had been scheduled out. It's better to take it easy right now than to be out there the first week in April and have it flare up on me."

Penny will play catch on flat ground and continue with the shoulder program prescribed by team trainers. He threw 25 pitches Sunday during the session in which he felt his shoulder weaken. The (relatively) chilly weather may have played a factor, manager Terry Francona said.

Neither Francona nor Penny showed concern. Francona called the break "almost like putting gas in the tank." Penny felt he could pitch if the start carried the importance of a regular-season game.

"I don't consider this a setback at all," Francona said. "There's going to be some hurdles he has to get over mentally. He could pitch Thursday. I just don't know that it's in everybody's long-term best interest.

"There really aren't red flags. He's done a hell of a job from where we got him. They keep testing, and he keeps getting stronger and stronger."

Penny felt no pain last Thursday during his first major test, 40 pitches of live batting practice. He called the session "a relief" after pitching through pain with the Dodgers for most of last season. The latest feeling in his shoulder, Penny said, is not similar to that.

"In a perfect world, it wouldn't be fatigued a little bit," Penny said. "I just have to get back in here to get back at it."

Penny is projected to be in the starting rotation. Even if he still requires rest when the season arrives, Francona said it would not be an issue because the team has three days off in its first 15 games.

Penny figures it won't come to that, anyway.

"This is a good year to have the extra time [in spring training]," he said. "I'm pretty sure I'll be fine."

Clay Buchholz, who was scheduled to pitch in relief of Penny, will start tomorrow in his place.

Job opening
Mark Kotsay's recovery from back surgery will keep him sidelined at the beginning of the season, leaving the 25th spot on the roster open. The winner will need to match the versatility of Kotsay, a career outfielder who assumed first base in the playoffs last fall while Kevin Youkilis spelled the injured Mike Lowell at third.

Four candidates have emerged: Paul McAnulty, Brad Wilkerson, Jeff Bailey, and Chris Carter.

McAnulty and Carter distinguished themselves yesterday, blasting back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning of a 9-8 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, while Bailey entered yesterday with the highest on-base percentage (.667) in the Grapefruit League.

Wilkerson has struggled early, with only a pair of singles in 10 at-bats.

"It's wide open," Francona said. "I think what you're looking for out of that is need. You'd like to see some guys do well, and then we'll make our decision on what helps the ball club the best."

Francona said defense would be a primary factor, and yesterday McAnulty had a minor mishap. In the fourth, Jay Bruce flied foul to McAnulty in left, and McAnulty dropped the ball as he tried to throw quickly into second and prevent Norris Hopper from tagging up.

The umpire ruled that McAnulty never made the catch.

"I thought I caught that ball," McAnulty said. "If I botch a play, I'll let you know. I'm a straight-up kind of guy."

Francona didn't argue the play, but he later backed McAnulty. Later in the at-bat, Bruce hit a two-run home run.

No clear favorite for the final spot has emerged this early.

"I'm really not even thinking about that," McAnulty said. "I'm rooting them on. Every guy in here is great, awesome people."

Said Carter, "Right now, I'm just going out there and proving myself. I definitely want to be part of this team."

Lester cruises
Jon Lester threw two easy innings in his second start of the spring, dispatching the Reds with just 20 pitches. Lester allowed one base runner, hitting Bruce with a pitch, but Jason Varitek threw Bruce out trying to steal. Lester will pitch three innings in his next outing . . . The US team for the World Baseball Classic beat the Yankees, 6-5, in an exhibition yesterday, a victory helped by the two Sox representatives. Youkilis went 1 for 3 with two RBIs, and Dustin Pedroia went 1 for 4 with a walk. Pedroia is wearing his usual No. 15 for the US, while Youkilis switched to No. 21.

Sick day
Julio Lugo did not play because of illness, which Francona said the team hopes was food poisoning as opposed to the flu . . . Junichi Tazawa faced major league hitters for the first time this spring, retiring all three Reds he faced and striking out one. Tazawa had pitched against Boston College and Northeastern. "He seems like he really has an idea of what he's doing out there," Francona said. "He seems to be able to follow the glove." . . . Reliever Ramon Ramírez endured his first rocky outing of the spring, allowing two two-run homers in one inning, during which the Sox committed two errors. He had retired the first six batters he faced . . . Highly touted catching prospect Mark Wagner hit his first home run of the spring . . . The Red Sox have one of their four scheduled days off today, and Francona will allow the players a break from workouts, too.

Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com

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