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Peavy continues to make strides
Jake Peavy had just finished telling the media it had been a "perfect workday." He said he was pleased with the direction his comeback was taking, excited by his progress.
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Then he turned on his cell phone and saw a text message from his mother, Debbie. Peavy had allowed three runs in his final inning. Good mom that Debbie is, she felt obligated to send her son an electronic hug.
"Don’t forget, Dr. (Anthony) Romeo said you would be rusty at the beginning," Debbie wrote, referring to Peavy's surgeon. "So don’t get discouraged by today and stay focused.
"The media may say whatever they say, that you’re never going to be the same. But we know how hard you’ve worked to get better. I just wanted to let you know what I was thinking. Stay positive and keep your head up after today. I’m thinking about you and always praying for you.
"Love you, Mom."
Peavy chuckled as he read the message aloud to a few White Sox teammates, chuckled again later when I asked him to repeat it. He was touched by his mom’s devotion, but thought she had over-reacted just a bit.
Debbie, you're right, the media will say whatever they say. But I'm here to tell you, as Jake told us Monday after facing the Padres, your boy is doing just fine.
"I feel like if things keep progressing the way they are, hopefully I'll jump in that five spot," Peavy said, referring to the last opening in the rotation. "If we do have a setback, at the rate we're going at now and as far down the road as we’ve been, I can’t see it being much of one."
Peavy, 29, is coming off surgery to repair a torn right latissimus dorsi tendon, an injury to the broadest muscle of the back that is unprecedented for a major leaguer. His place in the Opening Day rotation still is not assured, manager Ozzie Guillen said. But right now, Peavy’s recovery is perhaps the most stirring story in baseball.
In Lakeland, Fla., the Tigers are bracing for first baseman Miguel Cabrera's arraignment Wednesday on a DUI charge and wondering if their star slugger will succeed with his latest alcohol rehabilitation.
The White Sox, the usual AL Central leaders in turmoil, suddenly are the picture of tranquility; Guillen and GM Ken Williams, after feuding most of last spring, are enjoying a second honeymoon under the Arizona sun.
And then there is Peavy.
Monday was his third start. He began with three scoreless innings, just as he did in his previous outing, then pitched exclusively out of the stretch in the fourth, needing work from that position.
The Padres went single-double-homer to score three runs, but Peavy recovered to get three consecutive groundball outs. His velocity dropped from 91 to 92 mph to 87, according to one scout; the White Sox clocked him as high as 94.
But the gun readings tell only so much.
Peavy, the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner with the Padres, said he did not pitch the way he would in a regular-season game; he stubbornly kept throwing inside to San Diego’s left-handed hitters in the fourth.
His slider and changeup were very good early; after the first inning, in which he threw only seven of his 67 pitches, a scout described his stuff as "filthy." A second evaluator added, "He looked healthy, looked crisp."
Which is all that matters right now.
The White Sox keep saying, correctly, that Peavy is in uncharted territory. They know a setback is possible, maybe even likely. But could it be that Peavy’s path will not be as treacherous as originally feared?
Peavy said he was "nervous" after he did not bounce back strongly in his previous start. The White Sox’s trainers advised him to tone down the volume of his rehab and conditioning work, and Peavy said his arm responded.
"I think he’s going to make our team," pitching coach Don Cooper said, half joking.
Turning serious, Cooper added, "I think he’s going to be there until God forbid something proves us wrong. That said — and this is me talking, not anybody else — (it could be) 'give us six good (innings) for a while.' He battles. He competes."
Peavy, in fact, is so competitive, he initially bristled when reporters asked him about the possibility of getting occasionally skipped as the fifth starter.
"I want to pitch. I’m going to fight that battle," he said.
Well, the White Sox need their fifth starter only twice in the first 17 games. Peavy later said he would defer to the expertise of the team’s trainers and doctors. Guillen declined to outline any plans, knowing Peavy must continue gaining strength in his final two starts of spring training before the White Sox can be sure he belongs.
"I'm very optimistic that he's going to be out there. But realistically, I've got to be prepared," said Guillen, whose other options in the fifth starter’s spot include righties Philip Humber, Jeff Marquez and Lucas Harrell.
"We want him there. Very badly we want him there," Guillen said. "But is it necessary to take the risk? That’s the question we have to put in the air."
The White Sox, Guillen vowed, will be careful. Peavy, whom the team acquired on July 31, 2009, is signed through '12 with a $22 million club option for '13.
"If any little bitty thing is wrong, I promise you, they’re going to pull the reins back," Peavy said.
Not to worry, Debbie. Your son was better Monday than his pitching line indicated. In fact, I saved his best quote for last.
"I'm as much like that guy in San Diego as I've even been in this uniform," Jake Peavy said.
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