What to make of Penny, Martinez

Brad Penny and Victor Martinez have a failure to communicate (Getty Images)

The day the Tigers introduced newly-signed Brad Penny to local media on a conference call back in February, Penny went out of his way to praise Victor Martinez, with whom he had worked in Boston two years earlier:

“What I liked about Victor is he was never negative in any way,” Penny said. “If you’re struggling and he comes out to the mound and talks to you, it’s all positive. I mean, you can see he just knows you’re going to get out of it and do good. You can see it in his eyes. I mean, like I said before, what a great teammate. You guys are going to be really impressed with him as a person, not only as a player.”

On Thursday, after Penny gave up seven runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings, he was trying to defuse what became a very public disagreement between him and Martinez on the mound in the middle of his fourth and final inning.

“He hadn’t caught me in a while,” Penny said. “It had nothing to do with pitch selection or anything like that. With a runner on second, I like come set taking signs. That way, the hitter can’t look at second base and anything there. I’ve pitched my whole career that way and he didn’t want me to do it. I know there’s no other way for me. I guess it’s a habit. It’s natural. I’ve done it my whole career. It’s not that big of a deal. Me and Victor have been friends for a while now and that happens when you’re competing.

“It’s not that he wasn’t used to catching me. That had nothing to do with pitch selection or how I pitched today. It was totally the complete opposite of that. It was just when I was coming set taking signs.”

Martinez, for his part, wasn’t talking about it.

The calendar shows Penny has a point: Martinez hadn’t caught him since June 26 against Arizona. Alex Avila had caught Penny’s past four starts until Thursday. That said, pitchers and catchers have disagreements around baseball, and very few of them result in them yelling in each other’s direction.

There’s no sign of any escalating problem between Penny and Martinez, or Penny and anybody. But it seems entirely safe to read a frustrated Penny. If that back-and-forth didn’t show enough, Penny’s handing of the ball to Lloyd McClendon before he even reached the mound to make the pitching change two batters later probably did. He has taken a beating his last two starts, and Thursday’s loss saw him give up his second-highest total of extra-base hits this season. His ERA rose from 4.51 to 4.89.

Penny has had good and bad second-half numbers over the years, so there’s nothing consistent to read there. But his location issues over the last couple starts have been problematic. He had the time to work those out last start, and he eventually settled down to go seven innings. His problems in the fourth weren’t going to allow him that luxury this time. His frustration level Thursday was unlike anything he had shown all year.

No team chemistry problems have been obvious; in fact, Penny has been anything but isolated in the clubhouse. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how this incident plays out in his next few starts. The Tigers can’t catch Avila every game, and Martinez has caught Penny more than he has caught any other starter. If Martinez and Penny don’t work together for a while, he’ll have to catch Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello or the fifth starter, because Avila and Justin Verlander simply work together too well to break up.

15 Comments

Purcey apparently has “aiming” problems. I can tell as he even puts his hat on crooked.

Team chemistry? I don’t think the SOC believes in that. Can’t get away from this blog. Us Tiger fans deserve better because we have been waiting for a return trip to the WS. We are so close. Like it was said, the fans know what is going on, why doesn’t management? Thanks again to all for comments. I am a die hard Detroit Tigers fan and I think it started in 1968 when I was 11 years old.

Still no word on Purcey, I have lost all respect for Dave Dombrowski. How can he look at this team and allow that sad sack of a pitcher to continue to go to the mound and put games so far out of reach!
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If something doesn’t change I am seriously considering giving up the rest of my season tickets? But who the heck would be dumb enough to buy them. But while I may lose money on the tickets themselves I wouldn’t waste more money on parking and food and something to drink while I am there.
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Lots of complaining about a team in 1st place!

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Read some rumor on MLBTR.com about getting Jimenez. The asking price was rumored to have been Turner AND Porcello!!!
NO WAY Ray!

If DD does a deal like that he should be tarred and feathered. Those 2 are the future.

Oliver and Ruffin, yes Oliver and a Raburn or Clete Thomas yes.

If we need ANOTHER starter why would we give one away—we’d still be short starters then.

As I say rumour, so let’s hope this is just junk.

Oliver/Ruffin/Raburn (Thomas- really)

might get you half of Jimenez

If you trade Porcello , you still have 4 starters. We call it digging a hole to filing another.
Turnner , Castellanos and Oliver?. Martinez is ready to the Big Show according to his manager here in Venezuela

Purcey commented that he came in did not do his job! Duh? Sounds like a Trevor Tompson question. Yes, 1st place because nobody wants it. Where would we be in the East? IMHO, we don’t need a deadline deal. The players we have need to step up.

I don’t think Dave would make a deal like that, and that’s the asking price for this type of pitcher. We’ll be stuck with a Guthrie type which is worse than making no trade at all. The mistake was in building a team that needed to slug it’s way to the postseason. That never works, and I’d have thought DD knew that. Most people do. From listening to non-fan comments, I’m getting the amazing impression that they actually were depending on a healthy Zumaya.
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On this Penny-Martinez business, I can’t see why that needed to lead to a blowup, although there’s nothing wrong or unusual about a pitcher and catcher having it out. The fact that they did it on the field in front of millions of people tells me something is wrong here. Just not sure what. It did show a lack of class and respect to teamates, manager, coaches (especially Lloyd in temporary charge), and Tiger fans in general. That was embarassing for us, guys. JL can slough it off for the media, but I’d hope he addresses this type of behavior strongly. To put it in simple JL talk, “you just don’t do that.”

It is a tradition in Detroit. Verlander-Laird. Galarraga -Avila.Kenny Rogers- Magglio( he made a great catch two iinings later and it ended ther) .Ugheth Urbina and undisclosed player.

We do need an injjection of pitching–hopefully two injections.
Guthrie is a no-no for sure. Ideally we need a guy who can win a game, stike a hitter out and get the DP in his 7 innings of work. If that is a WandRod, a Bedard or even daresay, a Francis then you might get off not giving away the farm. Plus you get a badly needed LHP in the rotation.
There is still the matter of the pen. The Twins are willing to trade Span for Drew Storen, so that tells you how that organization feels about the importance of a strong bullpen.
Not sure what the Padres want for Adams but that should be researched by DD.
I’m sure everyone will get over the Penny.Martinez issue pretty quickly. The Tigers’ like to sweep these things under the rug so I don’t suspect it will result in anything radical. Hopefully it doesn’t breed and fester under the rugh though.
Detroit has always had a very good fan base. They do deserve a good product every year and throughout the year. They don’t deserve to be BS’d and deceived with inferior administration of their team’s affairs.
Dombrowski has made some good moves. I would say they are far fewer than the myriad of moves that have petered out or been downright blunders. Much of the problem was that period of time after 2006 where he got very magnanimous with contracts to average ball players. Those fat contracts hurt and are still hurting subsequent player personnel opportunities.
He needs to stick neck out for the fans this year at this time. He needs to have the guts to pull the plug on players he has acquired but who have not worked out (read Purcey) and players who are aging and diminishing before our very eyes. We might squeeze the rest of the year aout of Carlos and Maggs but please, no more.
I think they really need to be very aware of fly ball non outs to RF, to RBI production And hitting with RISP, double plays, 1st pitch swinging, clogging up the bases, etc from Maggs and be willing to substitue for him, without worrying about his image or reputation, if need be. We,re stuck with Guillen. At least until he reinjures himself. At least he is more versatile than Maggs and we might luck out with him for the balance of the year.

Don’t be surprised if we pick up a starter (read Guthrie) in August. I’d love to have a reliever right now, but doubt it will happen. I can’t believe Ryan Perry could be any worse than Purcey. We’ll have to have someone to offset Alburquerque and his frequent sore arms. Guys with other worldly stuff usually pay a price for it. I’d like to have Drew Storen for sure.
Trying to win a division with 85 wins. Wow.

Cardinals did it. Also Twins. Both were champions after beating … Detroit

I think the issue here is Penny, not Victor. By all accounts Victor is a team guy and a leader. It was Penny that appeared to start the whole thing by motioning for Victor to get back behind the plate. I’m sorry, but he’s not a good enough pitcher to tell a veteran catcher what to do. From everything I’ve seen, Penny seems like a real tool.

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