ANAHEIM -- Jake Peavy's return to the mound should be considered a complete success, and there's no need to look at the final score of Wednesday's White Sox-Angels game to make that call.
The White Sox rallying for two in the ninth to tie the game and two more in the 10th to claim a 6-4 victory simply was icing on the cake in this storyline. But while the White Sox were grounding out or popping up with runners on first and second or runners on second and third early in this game, Peavy was looking like a pitcher who never left the rotation.
It would have been hard to guess Wednesday marked Peavy's first regular-season start in the big leagues since July 6, 2010, when he left a home game against these same Angels after tearing the lat muscle from the bone. Ten months later, and Peavy once again is a fixture in the White Sox rotation.
"For the first time out in almost a year, to do what he did was good," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who had four hits and one RBI in Peavy's comeback. "It was a good outing for Jake, and hopefully he can build on it."
"This is his first game back, and I'm sure he was a little geeked up," said White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, who had four hits and reached base five times in support of Peavy. "He's going to only get better."
Peavy worked six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. He struck out four and didn't issue a walk, truly finding his groove in the fourth and fifth innings. In the fourth, he needed just 11 pitches to retire Alberto Callaspo on a fly ball to left fielder Juan Pierre, Hank Conger on a popup to shortstop Alexei Ramirez and Mark Trumbo on a ground ball to second baseman Gordon Beckham.
Peavy was just as quick through the fifth, extending his consecutive-batters retired to nine in a row with the first two hitters in the sixth. He threw 87 pitches, with 64 for strikes.
At that point, manager Ozzie Guillen removed Peavy for Jesse Crain. And Peavy, always the competitor, made his case to stay in for another inning.
"I don't want to take any chances," Guillen said. "He tried to talk to me about staying in the game. We have to be careful. It's only one game. We don't have to hurry with him. He threw the ball good."
"Tonight's game could have been a run or two," Peavy said. "I felt like I could have pitched deeper -- 87 pitches or so -- I felt strong and certainly didn't want to come out."
With the six-man rotation in operation, Peavy won't pitch again until Wednesday at home against the Indians. It will be a chance for White Sox fans to celebrate Peavy's drive to get back.
"This guy, I appreciate him more because he worked so hard to be back so quick," said Guillen, pointing out how Peavy is owed $16 million in 2011 and $17 million in 2012, regardless if he came back quickly. "If it was me, I would say, 'I will take my time. I'm not flying all over the United States to pitch. You guys have to pay me and I will take my time.'
"He was everywhere and did everything the doctors said, everything the trainers said and the general manager said, everything the pitching coach said. He did it right away and he did it right. That's why I have more respect for him than anybody else."
While Peavy's health was greatly improved from the early part of 2010, and even the end of '09, the intensity shown on the mound certainly didn't change a bit. There was Peavy throwing his hands up in frustration in the sixth after retiring Conger to end the inning, one pitch after Callaspo singled home the fourth run.
There was Peavy after the victory, talking about his excitement over the White Sox win and how good it was to feel as good as he has since coming to the White Sox in a 2009 Trade Deadline deal with the Padres. But there was Peavy also complaining about how four runs over six innings was not acceptable -- even with a few questionable defensive plays behind him.
"I'm excited as could be to compete with the boys and that the Chicago White Sox won tonight," Peavy said. "But I can't get excited about six innings and four runs. That ain't me.
"Pitching in the big leagues is different. You get in jams and feel your way through it. Going deeper into the game, it's like riding a bike. I felt comfortable tonight, threw strikes and had command while throwing all kinds of pitches."
Before this start, Peavy was warming up to a little Jason Aldean on the clubhouse stereo. One of Aldean's songs is titled "I Ain't Ready To Quit."
Even if the subject matter isn't geared to baseball, it seemed to fit on this night.
"As I get farther out of surgery, I can get back to how I was in San Diego," said Peavy, who hit 93 mph with his fastball and had the ball coming out of his hand better than in Spring Training, according to Guillen.
"I'll have a little bit better stuff than tonight, and go out and take over a ballgame. At the same time, I had pretty good stuff tonight, enough to compete."