By Connor McKnight-
GLENDALE, Ariz. (WSCR) – If Jake Peavy pitched like a new man today, it’s because he just might be. Maybe. Well… hold that thought.
After throwing five innings of no-hit ball and giving up just one walk Peavy’s ERA dropped from 18.69 to a healthy 8.68.
It’s a start.
“I was talking to a scout the other night,” Peavy said after his start, “and I said, ‘How do you scout Spring Training? You can get so fooled.’ I’m very blessed, I’m very pleased today to go out there and have good stuff. Show you guys, show my teammates that it’s there. We’ll see how often and how much but I believe that I got a chance.”
These five innings are really just the beginning of Spring Training for Peavy. He cut loose today for the first time in weeks–maybe years. The relief is clear on his face. As is the excitement.
What’s not clear, perhaps, is just how long it took him to get to this point.
“[Last year] I didn’t have fun at all,” Peavy remembers. “I remember waking up on my starting day in San Diego going, ‘Man, it’s starting day!’ And that was something special. It was exciting. You had butterflies in your stomach. I dreaded starting day for the last three years. [I was] going, ‘How in the world am I going to get through this? What kind of medication am I going to try to take.'”
That kind of mindset, that kind of uncertainty, that kind of fear, is enough to chip away at any level of talent. Take that and mix in an unhealthy body; It’s easy to see the path Jake Peavy followed to find himself 14-13 with a 4.77 ERA in 35 starts the past two seasons in Chicago.
“It was just a bad frame of mind,” Peavy continued. “That will take it’s toll on you. Mentally you try stay as strong as you can but when you go out there and you’re trying to get by…”
Peavy’s honest to a fault. He openly speaks of contemplating retirement as his injuries added up. He’ll admit to thinking about one day moving to the bullpen. He’ll fess up to volunteering for a relief stint that messed up the rest of his season just as he was getting somewhat healthy. It’s almost as if he sees himself from some outside perspective pushing and pushing, but is powerless to stop himself from “manning up” for a team that needs it.
Call it ego or hubris or just a dirtbag playing baseball, Peavy would likely admit to it all.
What has to change, what must change, for the good of the White Sox and Peavy himself, is his unwillingness to back down. To ease up. To just take it easy.
Can he do it?
“We’ll see,” Peavy said. “Last year at the time I volunteered [for the relief outing], I mean heck, I’d only made three or four starts in the big leagues.” (In fact he’d made six MLB starts including a shut out against Cleveland in his second start of the year.) “I wasn’t even a year from lat surgery and I’m volunteering to throw on my second day. Then I’m going out there and I feel good, I’ve got adrenaline through the roof with way too many Tylenol’s through the system. That’s just how I am. I get going.
It’s nobody’s fault but mine,” Peavy continued.
“You’ve got to be smart, you’ve got to understand what you’re body can do but at the same time I’m completely different [now]. You don’t want to do anything stupid. … But, if we get into August or September and it needs to be happen… then I’ll cowboy up,” he finished sheepishly.
The answer here is no one knows. No one but Jake Peavy can say whether he’ll let the bell ring every once in a while instead of charging out of the pen with glove in hand and cape on his back.
For his sake, and the White Sox, I hope he can.