Down in Fort Myers the topic of conversation today was pitching. Terry Francona spoke with the media for a few minutes this morning and Jonathan Papelbon, Brad Penny, and others threw live batting practice.
In Penny's words, "I felt great. Today, for me, answered a lot of questions, mentally and physically. I didn't know what to expect the first time going out there to face hitters, but everything felt great."
Penny is line to be the team's 5th starter when the season begins; Buchholz projects to start the year down on the farm in Pawtucket and Smotlz is being held out on the DL until June whether he likes it or not. Although he only threw BP today it's encouraging that he was pain free and felt good, clearing this first hurdle is a good first step. Penny added that he's 100% healthy.
Papelbon is also on a throwing regiment that will ease him into the season. When the dog days of August and September arrive Pap's health and durability is always a concern, as it if for all pitchers. Last year in the playoffs Pap said his arm was tired, definitely the affects from a long season and playoff run.
Francona and pitching coach John Farrell are acclaimed for their ability to work with the pitching staff and not run a reliever out there 5 days a week risking injury, looking at you Joe Torre.
Fracona added "With Paps, being a long spring, I don't know that we need to speed him up that much," said Francona. "With Penny, it's a little slower progression. I think the destination is the same, but we're getting there a little different"
Other pitchers throwing BP today were new comer Ramon Ramirez and Hideki Okajima. Papelbon will pitch in a spring training game March 3rd and Penny to start March 5th, however that time table could change.
A few other observations:
From photos I've seen Julio Lugo does look like he's put on a few pounds of muscle.
Mike Lowell is taking live batting practice, a good sign if he's to be ready for opening day.
Thanks to boston.com for the photo above.