KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jake Peavy isn’t about to start playing the blame game.
Actually, the White Sox pitcher said on Friday that his mechanics getting out of whack were more bad luck than the fault of anyone within the organization.
All that Peavy cared about now was that in his mind they were fixed.
“I’m just going, ‘Man, am I 28 [years old] and losing it already?’ ” Peavy admitted. “That doubt was there to a certain extent.”
Since the first inning in his April 28 start in Texas in which he served up five runs, Peavy has allowed three runs over 20 1/3 innings pitched (1.33 ERA), walking three and fanning 23. Over that time, opposing batters have a .130 average.
In other words, here’s the ace the Sox had been waiting for.
So how did April turn so ugly for the former Cy Young Award winner? Simply put, he was a victim of his own success the last month of the 2009 season, after he made a return from a badly strained right ankle.
Peavy’s pitching routine is like none other in the Sox organization, maybe in all of baseball. Besides the normal work he does between starts, the day before he’s scheduled to toe the rubber, he actually takes the mound and throws “10 to 15 pitches.” Day of, his final “last line of defense” as he calls it, is calling up video of his last start against the day’s opposing team, watching how he pitched them. That overrides everything else, including all the paperwork gathered from Sox intelligence.
It’s the eye test, with his own eyes watching how he conducts business.
“That overrides any paperwork I will do,” Peavy said. “That overrides any encounters you have with guys.”
When Peavy came back from the ankle injury last season, all pitching coach Don Cooper had to go on was how the career-long National Leaguer looked on the mound. He looked 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his three starts. Fine, have a nice offseason, no problem.
So when he showed up to spring camp, Cooper saw nothing mechanically different from the dominance Peavy displayed late last year.
Opposing hitters, however, were showing something different. Not only was the velocity down, but the location was a mess. Three runs allowed in his regular-season start against the Indians, seven his next in Toronto. The same routine, but something was wrong.
The day before his April 22 start against Tampa Bay came the breakthrough. Unlike Cleveland and Toronto, Peavy had a history pitching against the Rays in an interleague game from 2007. When they popped that video in for his regular recon, there it was.
“So the day of that Tampa start, that’s what we were doing, and Coop just happened to walk in … that was the first time this season that I had something to go back on,” Peavy said. “Coop said ‘Holy Jesus’ and they had put my comparison up there, my last start and then ’07.
“The way I stood on the mound was different than even in ’09. When I came back last year, I didn’t trust my ankle. I pushed it and pushed it trying to get back but I didn’t trust it. I didn’t trust my legs to get on the ankle and drive. The worst thing that happened was I went out and had success.”
It took a few weeks to get his arm slot moved back down while his hand moved back to a more vertical position, but now it’s right. More importantly, it feels right.
“I don’t know how much you guys believe me or what, but I promise you I was completely honest with you on what was going on,” Peavy said. “I can be good. It has nothing to do with the league. I can win if I’m healthy and right. Are there going to be hiccups along the way, are there going to be some bad starts? Sure. But I have the potential to go out, throw seven or eight innings, shut people down, make guys swing and miss. I’ve never been through anything like that. It was a rough month but I think the worst is over.”
Start No. 8 comes Saturday night for Peavy.