Peavy has learned a valuable lesson
Hurler vows to listen to body after injury-shortened season
CHICAGO -- The competitor in Jake Peavy pushes him to pick up a baseball right now and begin to get ready for the White Sox 2011 campaign.
Actually, that particular feeling probably enveloped Peavy shortly after his full range of motion returned following surgery to repair a detached latissimus dorsi muscle in his right posterior shoulder on July 14.
For the immediate future, though, Peavy has to defer to the lesson of patience learned during a trying 2010 season.
"Absolutely, I'm going to listen to my body," said Peavy during a recent interview with MLB.com. "You have to do that. I've learned that through this whole thing.
"Listen to your body a little bit better than I did. Be a little more honest with yourself when you are feeling something. I let something get quite a bit out of hand, and it led to an unfortunate ending to the season."
Peavy's injury came while throwing a pitch to Mike Napoli with two outs in the second inning of a home game against the Angels on July 6. His pained reaction and immediate departure from the field before manager Ozzie Guillen or head athletic trainer Herm Schneider could even reach the mound indicated this was no ordinary medical malady to be improved by a few weeks on the disabled list.
It came three weeks after Peavy had a scheduled start in Pittsburgh moved back two days to Washington, D.C., due to a tired feeling in his shoulder and six weeks after Peavy pitched through a dead-arm period. MRI results on June 15 revealed no structural damage, but did show some fluid buildup.
One start prior to the fateful trip to the mound, during a loss to the Royals, Peavy admitted to feeling something grab in the area of the detached latissimus dorsi, and he has acknowledged seeing some bruising. There certainly was no finger of blame pointed at the time of Peavy's season-ending trouble, but before exiting for the offseason, Peavy put a little more of the onus for the injury on his competitive fire.
The early weeks of his 2010 campaign were just short of disastrous, as Peavy posted a 7.85 ERA through April and a 6.23 ERA at the end of May. Peavy also issued 20 walks in his first 29 innings, but thanks to a red-hot June and a cruise through three Interleague starts, Peavy had a 7-6 record and a 4.63 ERA entering the Angels contest. He simply didn't want that run to end, on a personal level or for the sake of the team.
"I was going good and felt good on the mound," Peavy said. "I hated to bow out and miss a start or two on such a good run. So you live and you learn.
"I'm 29, and next year will be 10 [years] in the league for me. I'm still constantly learning, and I certainly learned a valuable lesson this year [about] listening and taking care of your body a little bit better."
As Peavy's rehab continues, he plans to try to throwing a baseball and maybe playing some "easy catch" during November. If all goes well with that phase, Peavy will start stretching it out in December and "see if I can put something on it."
"I'm excited for the progress we've already made and the way I feel," Peavy said. "I look forward to continue working hard. Hopefully, a little after the first of the year, I can get on the mound and not be behind at all when camp starts. That's the perfect scenario."
A non-waiver trade deadline acquisition of Edwin Jackson from Arizona helped the White Sox offset the Peavy loss. Then again, Peavy is not the sort of pitcher you replace.
He's a true No. 1 starter, the kind of abundantly talented hurler a team relies on to end losing streaks during the regular season or set the tone during the postseason. He's a guy general manager Ken Williams picked up to work through the high-pressure innings with the season on the line.
Sure, the White Sox cruised to 11 wins in 12 games during the 2005 World Series title run without a true ace. But for those who think a top-of-the-line hurler isn't necessary for postseason success, take a look at the amazing impact Cliff Lee has had on Texas' playoff performance.
Peavy, who is under contract for two more years at $33 million with a club option for 2013, understands this sort of responsibility. If there's one thing Peavy learned in 2010, though, it's that he can't push his body to perform feats it's not ready to undertake.
Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Jackson already stand in place for what looks to be a sturdy 2011 White Sox rotation, and rookie sensation Chris Sale is being targeted for next season's starting five, according to comments Williams made to MLB.com. There's also the possibility of Freddy Garcia, a free agent this offseason, returning.
If Peavy is not quite ready when the 2011 season begins, he knows the White Sox are in good hands. He's eager to quickly turn around what he admits has been "a tough start in Chicago," but not at the risk of future inactivity.
"My goal is to be there and be there from the get-go and pull my weight, and we'll work as hard as we can to make that a reality," said Peavy, who rehabbed an ankle injury upon arriving in Chicago from San Diego in 2009 and then suffered another setback upon taking a line drive to his pitching elbow.
"Once the time is right, I believe I will be there," Peavy said. "If I do have to miss a start or two at the beginning and can't start the season with the boys, I can't believe I would be much behind. I also feel confident in what we have."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.