LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brad Penny spent his Thursday evening on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Orlando, trying not to hear the baby in the row behind him. He spent his Friday morning working out at his new job.
There was very little in between. He got off the plane around 6 a.m. ET, hopped over to Lakeland and landed in the home clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium.
It was totally worth it for him. The way his 2010 season ended up, he has been ready for a while to get to work on 2011.
"Couldn't wait to get here," he said.
Considering his last meaningful pitches came last May, he has waited long enough for his liking.
A year ago at this point, Penny was looking to take his strong 2009 stretch run from San Francisco into his new spot in the Cardinals rotation. His first seven starts out of last spring strongly suggested he was on his way, until an oblique injury hampered him for two starts and landed him on the disabled list.
By now, Tigers fans know the story. What was once forecast as a five-day injury, or later a minimum stay on the DL, turned into a season-ending ordeal. He was ready for a return had the Cards reached the postseason, he said, but once St. Louis was eliminated, he had to wait through the offseason.
The Cardinals' loss might well have been the Tigers' gain.
"I had a lot more time," Penny said. "I might have taken a couple weeks off my shoulder program, but I just carried it on through. I threw more bullpens this offseason than I have in the past.
"Usually I'll throw one [bullpen session] before I get to spring. And now, I think I've thrown five or six."
He doesn't plan on changing his spring routine because of those extra throwing sessions. After two injury-shortened seasons over the past three years, he doesn't want to risk his health by getting too exuberant. Still, for someone with that very history, there's an advantage to having a head start. It's what has led so many other, younger Tigers pitchers into camp early in hopes of reversing some early-season struggles.
"I don't want to get too excited and do something stupid," he said. "But my last 'pen [session], I threw pretty hard."
Build off that, and Penny should be physically fine. From there, he can focus on performance, and focus on how to approach American League hitters, many of whom he'll face for the first time since his ill-fated 2009 stint with the Red Sox.
He learned from his time in Boston, but he doesn't dread it.
"It was fun," Penny said. "I was just inconsistent. I wasn't ahead in the count. For me to be successful, I have to be ahead in the count. When you're behind in the count, it's hard to [catch up]. Not many catchers in the world are going to be like, 'Curveball, 3-1 [count].'"
Friday wasn't one of those days for Penny to throw. He worked out with his new teammates, met with strength and conditioning coordinator Javair Gillett, and hit the weight room.
He had the remainder of the day to be tired from his trip.
"I got in at like 6 o'clock this morning in Orlando," he said. "Once you get in and work out and do stuff, it gets easier and easier. Taking days off is when it gets hard."