FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As manager Terry Francona indicated yesterday, Brad Penny will be pushed back from his scheduled start Thursday against the Puerto Rico team. Penny will stay on flat ground and in the bullpen for now, as he works to build up the strength in a shoulder that felt weak in a 25-pitch side session.
"I just don't think the shoulder strength is probably where it needed to be yet for the workload I had been scheduled out," Penny said. "It was better to take it easy right now than to be out there the first week in April and have it flare up on me."
Francona called it a "blah" side when describing what happened Sunday. The problem isn't like the injury issues that beset Penny last season, which involved significant pain. This is more of an issue with weakness in the shoulder.
Penny said he was not overly concerned with his shoulder at this point.
"When a guy gets to the mound in a game, from that point forward, the shoulder strengthening part, you're not going to get stronger," Francona said. "That's just the way it goes. We've said all along that we really want to strengthen that shoulder. After his side the other day, we kind of sat down -- John [Farrell] and I and Mike Reinold -- and thought, OK, are we approaching this the best way we can? And the answer was no."
Clay Buchholz will start on Thursday in place of Penny. The change did not significantly affect the pitching rotation, since Buchholz was originally going to piggyback with Penny.
Asked if this would affect Penny's availability at the start of the season, Francona said, "I don't know if I have a whole lot of concern about that anyway." To start the season, the Sox have three days off in their first 15 games, with another day off before Opening Day. That leaves the team some flexibility with the rotation.