Terry Francona said this morning that there's no hurry to have Brad Penny ready for Opening Day, that if the veteran needs an extra week or so to get ready, the Red Sox can get by without him.
When one reporter asked if that was because he could pitch Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden or Justin Masterson, Francona said, "Or nobody. We open up with an off-day, we play, we have an off-day, and then I don’t know how many we play in a row. There’s some wiggle room, as there always is at the beginning of the year. ... You can look at the schedule and dissect it."
Why, thanks, Tito. Don't mind if I do. Here's one look at the way the Red Sox rotation might look when the season begins:
April 6: Josh Beckett
April 7: Day off
April 8: Jon Lester
April 9: Daisuke Matsuzaka
April 10: Tim Wakefield
April 11: Beckett (four days' rest)
April 12: Here's where you start to run into trouble. If Penny isn't ready, you can't just skip that spot in the rotation. Lester would be pitching on three days' rest, and you have to believe the Red Sox are going to be extra careful with a guy who pitched 237 innings last season, more than 70 innings beyond his previous career high. If Penny can go, he'll go. If he can't, you have to believe this -- or the April 11 start, with Beckett going on April 12 -- would be a spot for Buchholz.
April 13: Lester (four days' rest)
April 14: Matsuzaka (four days' rest)
April 15: Wakefield (four days' rest)
April 16: Day off. This is where you can skip your fifth starter.
April 17: Beckett (either four or five days' rest)
April 18: Lester (four days' rest)
April 19: Matsuzaka (four days' rest)
April 20: Wakefield (four days' rest)
April 21: You can't bring back Beckett again on four days' rest, so you'll need a fifth starter again. This might be where Francona is talking about Penny being ready -- if they don't need Penny for April 16, they might skip him on April 12 and target him for April 21 against Minnesota at Fenway Park.