At this point, it's reasonable to ask if Brad Penny will, or should, ever make another start for the Red Sox.
Against the Yankees on Friday night, Penny lasted just four innings, allowing eight earned runs on 10 hits. In all, the burly righty allowed 11 base runners and recorded just 12 outs in his rather brief outing.
With the loss, Penny's record now stands at 7-8, making him the only Sox pitcher with a minimum of 10 starts that has a losing record.
As further evidence of his futility, Penny's ERA jumped to a bloated 5.61, which is 37th in the AL.
At this point, Penny can only be described as an outright bust for the Red Sox. He has just one win in his past 11 starts, to go along with a 6.37 ERA during that span, dating back to June 23.
Not once in his 24 starts this season has Penny made it through the seventh inning, the worst streak in the Majors. It is a level of ineptitude not experienced by a Red Sox pitcher since 1954.
It is part of a disturbing and long term trend; Penny has not finished the seveth inning since May 24, 2008.
With such consistently brief outings, Penny has been a drain on the Sox' bullpen all season.
Over 131.2 innings this year, Penny has given up 160 hits (7th in AL) and 42 walks. Those 202 base runners have resulted in a 1.53 WHIP.
Far too often, Penny lets batters reach base, and ultimately too many of them score. Opponents are batting .351 against him, and his 82 earned runs are tied for third in the AL.
With Tim Wakefield due back next week, and Paul Byrd close behind, you have to wonder if the Red Sox have seen enough of Penny and are ready to move on. The activation of either pitcher will necessitate a corresponding roster move, and Penny could well be the odd man out.
Indeed, Junichi Tazawa is young and green, and he was forced into action way too soon. At the least, it was far sooner than the Red Sox had planned for or wanted, But at this point, even he may be a better proposition than Penny.
We'll know more about Tazawa's readiness during his start against the challenging Yankee lineup this afternoon.
To this point, the young Japanese righty has managed three brief outings, and surely has an innings limit.
The Sox are also anticipating the return of Daisuke Matsuzaka next month. But, like Penny, he too can only be relied on for limited innings, despite allowing a wealth of runs.
Something has got to give. It's impossible for the Red Sox to maintain playoff hopes with three starters who can't consistently pitch at least six innings.
The Sox can't go on like this with Penny any longer. There's only so much room on the roster and they need an innings eater. It's a good bet that either Wakefield or Byrd will give them more than Penny can.
The Sox rolled the dice on Penny and it hasn't worked out. Okay, you could day it's backfired miserably.
One way or the other, Penny hurts the Sox more than he helps and it's time for them to cut bait and move on before he causes any further damage.
The bullpen, and the team as a whole, can't take any more of Brad Penny.