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Penny return

It seemed that when Brad Penny walked away from the Cardinals that he burned his bridge and then stomped on the ashes.

First, he had a public dispute with the team about the severity of the back injury that ruined two-thirds of his season. Then, to add insult to injury, he walked out on the club that he rooted for as a young man, not even showing up to be in the team photo at the end of the year.

But ESPN's Keith Law thinks Penny might be willing to return to the Redbirds at a deep discount -- and that St. Louis might want him back.

Law says the Cardinals are looking for a "sixth starter." Someone who could provide insurance against the pitching shortage the club faces last season -- ironically starting when Penny went down with the previously mentioned back problem and Kyle Lohse proved to still be damaged goods. The Birds were said to be interested in Brandon Webb before he decided a couple of days ago to sign with the Rangers for $3 million a year.

As I mentioned last week, I think Penny might be best suited for a bullpen role at this point. He's managed 200 innings or more only twice in his decade-plus career because of one malady or another. He might make a pretty nice set-up man unless pressed into service to replace one of the starting five.

I'd prefer Penny for that role over Webb. Penny was fantastic last season before the back injury which has had several months to heal. Webb has thrown four innings in two years with severe shoulder troubles and had trouble reaching 80 miles an hour when he threw for scouts a few weeks back. After the Cardinals paid him $7.5 million last season for nine starts, I'd think paying him $2 million this year to be a back end of the bullpenner and an insurance policy would be a wise investment.

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