Brad Penny’s 50th career win as a Marlin was nothing like the 49 before it.
In his win on Monday over the Brewers, Penny relied heavily on a two-seamer with sink, a major departure from the norm. The outcome: Of the 18 outs recorded by Penny, 13 derived from ground balls hit to the left side of the infield.
Penny credited pitching coach Chuck Hernandez for convincing him to largely abandon his four-seam fastball in favor of the two-seamer in the aftermath of a poor last outing against the Mets.
“I’m a four-seam guy,” Penny said. “But Chuck talked to me about it. I’m a different guy now. I can’t go out there and overpower hitters, and I don’t need to try to.”
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Penny struck out only one batter on Monday, and that was Brewers reliever Marco Estrada.
According to Brooks Baseball, 53 of the 72 total pitches thrown by Penny were two-seamers. He threw only five four-seam fastballs. That contrasts to his previous start against New York in which he threw more four-seamers (20) than two-seamers (13) in what was an abbreviated outing.
“Today I was just kind of a different pitcher,” Penny said Monday. “I kind of just threw all two-seamers, which was probably the first time I’ve done that in my career. Especially in this park — this and Cincinnati — you’ve got to keep the ball down. The ball flies here, especially with the roof open. I got here and saw the roof open and I was, like, ‘I better be different than last time.’ ”
Penny said the goal for him now is to get batters to go after his sinker and induce early contact. Though Penny walked three leadoff hitters Monday, double play grounders erased two of them.
“I was wearing Casey [ McGehee] out over there, ground ball after ground ball,” Penny said. “I need to keep my pitch count down and get quick outs. Even with the three walks, I didn’t throw a whole lot of pitches because I got the ground-ball double plays.”
ALVAREZ IN MIX
And now that Penny thinks he has found a new pitching style that works best for him, there’s a chance he could be thrown from the rotation. That’s because Henderson Alvarez, who was almost written off for the season following his latest injury, is back in the starting mix.
Alvarez threw a light bullpen session Tuesday, after which manager Mike Redmond said he would start Friday in Philadelphia.
“It’s good news for us,” Redmond said. “He’s definitely had a few things come up this year. I think we’re all fortunate this wasn’t a year-ender for him and he’s going to come out and finish the season and hopefully win us some more ballgames.”
Alvarez is coming back from an oblique injury.
Redmond said Brad Hand’s start would be pushed back a day, to Saturday. Asked whether Penny would remain in the rotation, Redmond replied: “We’ll see. I’ve got to talk with [Hernandez].”
Redmond said he does not envision going to a six-man rotation.
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