Penny engaged to Dancing With The Stars’ Karina Smirnoff

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Brad Penny gelled immediately with pitching coach Dave Duncan this year in St. Louis and posted a solid 3.23 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in his first nine starts for the Cardinals, but he went down with a lat injury in late May and never resurfaced due to injury setbacks.

He’s back in the news now, but not for baseball reasons.  According to People Magazine, Penny got engaged recently to longtime girlfriend Karina Smirnoff, one of the more popular professional dancers on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars.

Penny will be a free agent this winter and will probably be seeking an incentive-laden one-year deal like the $7.5 million one that he scored last offseason from St. Louis.  The big right-hander has always been an effective starter when healthy and owns a career 4.11 ERA and 6.27 K/9.

He should be able to find a decent contract in a free agent market that is thin on quality starting pitchers.

Smirnoff, pictured on the right playing catch with Penny, danced this season with Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from MTV’s Jersey Shore.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉