Brad Penny took another step toward appearing in a game, throwing about 25 pitches of live batting practice on a back field at about 11:30 today. Penny survived one harrowing moment: Gil Velaquez ripped a line drive back at him, and it ricocheted off the crossbar of the L-screen, barely missing Penny as it whizzed by.
“That would have been … you know, it wouldn’t have been good,” pitching coach John Farrell said. Farrell watched Penny while kneeling behind the mound next to manager Terry Francona. Starters Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester, and Josh Beckett watched, too, from behind the cage. They gave him high fives when Penny walked off; Beckett rubbed him on the top of the head.
Here’s what Farrell thought of the outing:
How’d it go?
“It was another encouraging session for him. He got loose in 30 pitches, quality stuff. We had set out going into today’s BP session anywhere from 20 to 25 [pitches]. We wanted to guard against feeling really good and overdoing it. Three days from now will be a two-inning [simulated] outing provided he checks out fine. I think he’s encouraged and the stuff that’s coming out of his delivery, the quality and the velocity, it’s been another quality step for him.
How much do you like using the simulated game?
It’s done for a reason. It goes into the schedule here. What we don’t want to do is get him into a 30-, 35-pitch inning just to get through it, where it may overload him in his first outing. The next progressive step would be in a simulated-type setting.
Was he throwing everything?
Just his fastball and curveball today. All from the windup. Friday will be more game situation, where he’ll have to incorporate the other aspects of the delivery – windup, stretch. But today was another very good step for him.
Do you have a target for a Grapefruit League game?
Not yet. I think if he comes out of Friday OK, ideally you’re looking at the middle of next week sometime. That would be a natural turn for him on a five-day rotation. For his own sake, for our own sake, yes, we’ll know the next three or four days what he can give us. But the way he responds to the workloads gives us the go-ahead to keep mapping forward. The past eight days have been extremely positive.
Was today enough to make you optimistic he’ll make his first regular season start?
Again, I think there are probably more progressive steps that we’ll go through to get a clearer picture on that. Certainly not ruling it out, but I think it’s important for him to take those next steps in terms of total number of pitches, increased intensity, a natural incline.
At what capacity did he throw?
I’d say he threw 90-95 percent today, and maybe inching closer to what his full delivery will provide for him. He’s getting to the point where the baseball adjustments are taking place. The condition of his shoulder is almost in the back of his mind. Now it’s a matter of repeating his delivery, feeling his timing, being erratic at times and making the adjustments to correct it. When you hear a pitcher make comments along those lines, then you know that the physical ailments are not even being thought of. Those are all encouraging signs.