If the Sox won’t move Dice-K out of his starter’s job, another possibility is Bard getting sent down to Pawtucket while Penny moves to the bullpen, with Smoltz taking his place in the starting rotation. This theory is not too far-fetched, as Penny is well aware that in addition to the $5 million he is guaranteed to make in 2009, he could receive $3 million more in incentives, including $500,000 for appearing in 55 games or $1 million for 50 games finished – and you certainly don’t accomplish those feats as a starter.
Regardless of who gets the boot out of the rotation or the bullpen, there’s going to be a lot of pressure now for Smoltz, who’s set to make $5.5 million in ’09 (and possibly $5 million more in incentives), to pitch well and be at least as solid as Penny has been for most of the year. But the 41-year-old is coming off shoulder surgery and will soon be pitching in the offensive beast that is the AL East. He is surely ready for any challenge however, and also ready to prove to the front office in Atlanta, his home of 20+ years before 2009 that it was a mistake to let him go.
Conveniently, Smoltz’s first outings for Boston will be against familiar NL East foes, either Florida or Washington, and as fate could have it, possibly Atlanta as well, who will face the Sox six times in the next two weeks.
For Red Sox fans, watching a Cooperstown-bound pitcher like John Smoltz come in almost mid-season and join an already star-studded starting rotation is a rare sight. Will he be successful here? This is the week we could begin to find out, at long last.