Brad Penny’s escape from L.A.
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Though he loved Los Angeles and in its place was subject to the softest free-agent market in years, Brad Penny is happy to be free of the Dodgers.
And though they were left to rebuild a pitching staff that could use another power arm or two, the Dodgers are happy to be rid of him, sources close to the team said.
The way Penny saw it, he pitched for them until his aching shoulder would no longer allow it, and then they asked him for more innings, potentially risking more damage.
The way they saw it, Penny hinted he’d pitch down the stretch in return for them picking up his 2009 option, worth $8.75 million, the paycheck more important than the team.
The way it ended, Penny cleared out his locker and went home long before the Dodgers’ season was over. He signed in early January with the Boston Red Sox, a one-year contract worth $5 million guaranteed. He’s expected to be their fifth starter for at least as long as it takes John Smoltz to get healthy, and the situation will sort itself from there.
It was an apparently content, seemingly healthy Penny who last week began his 10th big-league season by throwing without pain, he said, for the first time in a year.
He needed to move on, clearly.
“A lot of stuff went on last year,” Penny said. “There were a few people I didn’t get along with on the coaching staff that don’t respect people. I mean, me and Joe [Torre] got along fine. I just feel like nobody had my back there. You’re in the clubhouse and you have players coming up to you saying coaches are saying this to them about you. And that’s just not a good situation to be in.”
“Your boy Larry Bowa.”
“You know what, injuries are out of my control,” said Penny, who did take a cortisone injection in September. “I was hurt. Obviously they didn’t believe me, because of what they were saying. But, they’ll learn. You’ve got to listen to your arm. It’s not all about giving someone a shot. I was hurt. I’m not going to make that up.”
The season before, Penny won 16 games and finished third in the National League Cy Young voting. In 2008, his record was 6-9 and his ERA was 6.27. He pitched only nine innings after mid-June.
“I was trying to protect my career,” he said. “Obviously I don’t throw 88 miles an hour. If they’re too blind to see that, that’s out of my control. It’s funny, man, I don’t know. … They should look at it like I tried to do more than I should have. From the start. They knew I was hurt in spring training. I wouldn’t have been of any help. Yeah, I could pitch. I wouldn’t have done any good.”
In Red Sox camp, he’s latched onto trainer Mike Reinold, a shoulder guru. And he’s waiting for the right moment to glom onto Smoltz, who throws one of the great split-fingered fastballs in the game. Penny has dabbled with a splitter but has never been completely content with it.
“I’ve had no one to help me out with the split,” he said. “I came up with it on my own, I threw it on my own. Nobody ever showed me any way to throw a splitty.”
After that, he said, he’s simply looking forward to being in Boston, being a Red Sox, and not being, well, you know.
“I’m so glad to be out of there,” he said. “I think it was the right thing for me and them.”
See? Everybody’s happy.
Hamels’ ‘choke artists’ comment
Jamie Moyer is something of a mentor to Cole Hamels, a fellow Philadelphia Phillies left-handed starter 21 years Moyer’s junior. So Moyer chalked up Hamels’ ill-advised offseason comment on a New York radio station that the division rival Mets were “choke artists” as a learning experience.
“Sometimes we choose words appropriately, sometimes we don’t,” Moyer said. “Knowing Cole, I don’t think he meant anything derogatory or controversial. That was just his viewpoint.
“I assume he’s backing up what he said, and now he has to back it up on the field, and if he does, that will make him an even better person and pitcher. Or if he kind of crumbles a little bit, then says maybe I shouldn’t have said it, I can see it affecting him a couple of ways. It’ll be interesting to see.”
Hamels’ first instinct was to back off. “I didn’t even know what I was saying,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I thought I was just answering a question. Sometimes it’s really hard. But I’m glad it happened. It kind of keeps me aware. Every time I make a mistake, I correct myself. I try to live by being honest, but I don’t want it really to affect who I am.”
Innocence of youth
Tampa Bay Rays pitchers James Shields and Scott Kazmir said they aren’t fazed after watching the Yankees and Red Sox load up on pitching this winter, with the Yankees adding CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and the Red Sox importing John Smoltz and Brad Penny.
“I liked it, I loved it,” Shields said. “I’m a believer this is the best division in major league baseball and I think we have some good pitchers now and we’re going to have some good battles. I’m pretty excited about it, being able to pitch against the premier pitchers in the league on a consistent basis rather than seeing them maybe one time the whole year. I think that’s great.
“We’ve got good arms here. We did a great job last year coming together and the good news is we’re still learning. We’ve got a lot of fire, and I think people understand we’re pretty solid one to five.”
Said Kazmir: “It’s always going to be tough in the division we’re in. It feels like they took the offseason to rebuild and get free agents just because of what we did. It shows us a little bit of respect, but I still feel like we have to go out there and prove it wasn’t a fluke.”
Kazmir called the Yankee spending “unheard of.”
“The funny part about it is we can still match up with them,” he said. “We know we can beat them day in, day out if we play the way we know how to play. It’s a good feeling to know you have the respect of the league.”
Rays enjoy burgeoning popularity
The Rays drew a big crowd to their first workout in their new spring training facility in Port Charlotte, Fla., the renovated former home of the Texas Rangers. The team has sold out every reserved seat for its exhibition schedule; only lawn seating remains. The Rays sold 3,500 spring season tickets, compared to 350 at Al Lang Field, their previous facility in St. Petersburg.
“I think I can say this for the whole team,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “We have a commitment to the fans, we have to prove it wasn’t a one-year wonder team. We’re here for a long time and it’s good to be getting the support from the people from the get-go.”
At the team’s FanFest Saturday, manager Joe Maddon was approached by a fan who held up a picture of his new infant daughter and said the child’s middle name was “Maddon.”
“They brought her up and I held her up for pictures,” he said. “She was just a little thing, a couple months old. Dec. 31, I believe.”
Maddon, who likes to bring in motivational speakers during camp – in the past, he has had generals from McDill Air Force Base, soldiers from Iraq, Dick Vitale and football coach Monte Kiffen – is shooting even higher this spring. He’s trying to line up a visit by Gen. Colin Powell, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Yahoo! Sports national baseball writer Gordon Edes also contributed to this notebook.