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With Smoltz looming, will Red Sox cash in Penny?

John Smoltz's final minor-league rehab start was rained out last night, so instead he'll take the mound at Triple-A today and also push back his Red Sox debut slightly. Here's what manager Terry Francona had to say about his impending arrival:

After he pitches, we'll sit down with Smoltzy and just make sure we're all on the same page. When I say on the same page, he's been tremendous. We are on the same page. But, again, when you activate somebody, there has to be another move. He understands that. Our next move is to wait for him to get done pitching, sit down with him, see how he comes through his start, and then we'll go from there.

In other words, the Red Sox's rotation is already filled with five veteran starters and one of them--or perhaps more accurately Brad Penny--will likely be given the boot for Smoltz. Of course, Penny shut out the Yankees for six innings last night and afterward replied "I don't want to do that" when asked about possibly moving to the bullpen to make room in the rotation for Smoltz.

On the other hand Smoltz indicated last week that he'd be willing to fill whichever role the Red Sox ask of him, so convincing him to work his way into the rotation gradually by perhaps skipping starts or working as a reliever could be an option if the team wants to delay a decision on Penny (and see first hand what type of stuff Smoltz has these days).

Another option is, of course, trading Penny. He certainly hasn't been great so far, but Penny has a 4.10 ERA and 38/9 K/BB ratio in 48.1 innings since a poor April and there are obviously plenty of teams that could use him in their rotation. If the various rumors are true the Red Sox have definitely been shopping Penny around, but the situation is complicated somewhat by the fact that he can veto any trade through Monday.

Unless they can find good value in a trade for Penny the Red Sox may be best off keeping both pitchers around for a while, provided that Smoltz was truthful about his role flexibility. Assuming that Smoltz will jump right into the mix and remain healthy for the rest of the season is far from safe and there's no reason to give up an asset like Penny for a rotation switch that may not even prove to be a significant upgrade.

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