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05/03/12 9:20 PM ET
Healthy Peavy is blessed with new perspective
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
DETROIT -- The words coming from Jake Peavy dealt with feelings of compassion for Derrick Rose and his season-ending torn ACL sustained in the first game of the Bulls' playoff series with the 76ers. Peavy's name easily could have been subbed in for the Bulls point guard and hometown hero when looking at the myriad of health issues the right-hander battled through since the White Sox acquired him from San Diego at the 2009 non-waiver Trade Deadline. And as Rose most likely has found out, there's as much mental anguish as physical pain that comes with such a serious setback. "He's got to feel awful," said Peavy, speaking to MLB.com in a recent interview. "You second-guess everything you could have done, but there's nothing you could have done. He's playing the game hard and right, and he had a tremendous game [when he got hurt]. It's just the way the stars were aligned and what was meant to happen." Added by White Sox general manager Ken Williams with the vision of having a true No. 1 at the top of the rotation, Peavy arrived while on the disabled list with a strained right ankle. That problem seemed mild compared to July 6, 2010, when Peavy completely ruptured the tendon that ties the latissimus dorsi muscle to the rear of the shoulder in a game against the Angels. And even after making a miraculous comeback in 2011 from the appropriately named "Jake Peavy surgery," he still dealt with a right groin strain that contributed to an ineffective campaign. Fans grew frustrated with the ace who accrued far more days of inactivity than victories during his 17-13 White Sox run coming into this season. As Peavy sat and talked recently about those incredibly tough times, which culminated with him being shut down last season on Sept. 6, he smiled and said there always was a light to be seen through this long, dark tunnel. "I saw flashes of the guy that I once was," said Peavy, focusing primarily on his 2011 effort. "Against Cleveland, I threw a [three-hit] shutout [on May 18]. I felt that night like I used to feel on the mound and was able to do a lot of the same stuff that I did. "At times after that surgery, I did feel as good as I feel now. That gave me hope to push through. I was thinking, 'I don't know if I can feel like this on an every-five-day basis, but I know I should be able to get back and help in some capacity.'" Through the first month of the 2012 season, Peavy arguably has been the American League's best starting pitching, with the recognition of April Pitcher of the Month to back up that assessment. Entering Friday's series opener at Comerica Park, Peavy features a 3-1 record and a 1.67 ERA that ranks only behind the Angels' Jered Weaver (1.61). Peavy's two complete games, tied with Weaver for the AL lead, have come in his past two starts against the A's and Red Sox, during which he has allowed seven hits and one earned run over 18 innings. His .162 opponents' batting average against is the best the AL, and Peavy has walked just five while fanning 33 over 37 2/3 innings. So, what's his secret to success? It's not a return to the mid-90s velocity Peavy regularly brought to the mound when he won the 2007 National League Cy Young Award and the pitchers' equivalent of the Triple Crown. Peavy is getting it done with movement, location and one more simple word. Health. "This is the Jake that is 100 percent healthy and pitching like I know he can," said White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, who played against Peavy in the NL. "For a guy who throws so many strikes, it's a very uncomfortable at-bat. His ball moves in and out, up and down, and he just knows how to pitch." "Jake's pitchability, his feel, is tremendous," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper "But the common denominator of all his games and anybody you see who throws a good ballgame or a really dominating performance, you are pouring strikes in and you are getting the hammer, strike one." Of greatest concern to Cooper clearly is keeping Peavy at this same high level or at least near these consistent peak performances the rest of the season. Peavy is doing all he can to maintain that elevated bar of excellence. Take Wednesday as an example. It was a Day 3 routine for Peavy, which meant doing some shoulder work with head athletic trainer Herm Schneider. Then, Peavy saw a massage therapist, a Thai therapist, to be exact, which involves a great deal of stretching for his groin and his arm. He spent almost two hours in the training room, and that period doesn't even include his work with White Sox director of conditioning Allen Thomas. "Definitely, it's a grind, but at the same I can tell you this," Peavy said. "I will be able to look myself in the mirror, as I have through this whole process, and know that if something was to happen, it happened because I simply couldn't avoid it happening. "I'm feeling very fortunate and blessed that I've been able to keep it together so far through Spring Training and the first part of the season. I feel healthy, and I'm doing all I can do to stay healthy. I'm excited for what we have here in front of us." Excitement for Peavy comes from the togetherness and makeup of this White Sox team and his strong working relationship with Cooper, White Sox manager Robin Ventura and his staff. He's also excited to be making a healthy, significant contribution. As Rose will probably attest when he comes back, Peavy appreciates every trip to the mound a little more nowadays. "Coming through the injuries and the years I've had, there's nobody anymore grateful for the opportunity to play baseball and grateful to be healthy," Peavy said. "Making your start every fifth day and feeling the way I feel, it's something I took for granted for eight years of a career. I can promise you I don't take a fifth day for granted and I feel very blessed."