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03/23/09 6:50 PM ET

Penny lets it fly in Red Sox debut

Righty feels 100 percent, works crisp three innings vs. Tigers

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Why did the Red Sox wait until Monday to allow Brad Penny to make his Grapefruit League debut? Simply because they wanted the righty to be back in full form once he got back on a regular pitching schedule.

That logic was affirmed by what took place for Penny in his three-inning outing against the Tigers. Penny held nothing back. He let it fly, firing three hitless innings and striking out three.

"From where we were, he was out there grunting and letting it fly," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That's what we're looking for: Grip it and go. I think he was excited. It was a good step for him, and we all felt good about it. [There was] a lot of excitement in the dugout today because of how he threw."

Yes, that was the Penny the Red Sox envisioned when they signed him as perhaps one of the best free-agent bargains of the offseason.

"It was nice," said Penny. "I felt good. It has been a while since I've gone out there and felt good. Last year, I was pitching, but I didn't really feel like I had a lot behind it. Today was good. It was another steppingstone to get my innings and my pitches. I felt pretty good."

So good that Penny reeled off just 33 pitches over his three innings.

The achy right shoulder that limited his innings and ballooned his ERA a year ago wasn't even on Penny's radar Monday, as he crisply fired fastballs on the black.

"I felt 100 percent," said Penny. "I didn't get to throw many breaking balls, because they were so aggressive swinging early in the count. I would have liked to have worked on my offspeed [pitches] a little more."

There will be time for that. All the Red Sox wanted was a healthy Penny, and he appears to be just that.

After pitching in two Minor League games on backfields, Penny got to pitch in front of a crowd of 8,278, the largest in the history of City of Palms Park.

Adrenaline rush?

"It did earlier, but when I got out there and threw the first pitch, you kind of get over it," Penny said. "I'm sure when it's a real Major League game, it will be a lot more adrenaline."

As for when that first Major League game will happen, the Red Sox haven't finalized that schedule just yet.

They first need a fifth starter on April 12 -- the sixth game of the regular season -- but there's a chance Penny will be held out a tad longer.

"[I'm trying to] just stay on schedule, go with what they want me to do," Penny said. "They haven't told me anything about it."

"[It] depends on how strong he gets and how lengthened out," Francona said. "With these other guys now, they've gone to the three-inning spot and we've kind of held them there a little bit. I don't think we need to put a date on it, but more important than that date is getting him built up for the long haul. That's kind of what we're looking at. We'll certainly talk to him about it."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.