White Sox RHP Peavy looks to build on strong start

The arm is fine, the shoulder is sound and the legs are strong.

There are no scheduled surgeries. No minor league rehab starts,

either.

Jake Peavy is free to worry about pitching again.

”I’m so blessed to be healthy,” he said. ”I know that it’s

been a long grind with you guys and the fans and everybody to get

me to this point. But I am healthy. Like I said, I don’t know what

I can be or can’t be now after what I’ve gone through, but I can

promise you my effort and preparation is going to be there.”

That’s more than enough for the Chicago White Sox, who are just

happy to have Peavy back on the mound. A slew of injuries over the

past three seasons cast doubt on whether the right-hander would

return to the form that led to the 2007 NL Cy Young Award with San

Diego.

After three solid starts this season, it looks as if the

30-year-old Peavy has plenty left.

”He can pitch,” White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. ”I

mean that’s never been a debate over whether he can have command

and hit spots and make pitches. That’s never been the issue. It’s

just a matter of health and him being out there. So it’s great to

see.”

Peavy was hit hard during a couple of spring starts but stayed

positive, mentioning repeatedly how great it was to be healthy

again. And when the season started, he was ready to go.

He made his 2012 debut in Texas and tossed six effective innings

in a no-decision against the two-time defending AL champion

Rangers. He drew another tough lineup for his second start and

pitched into the seventh inning in a 5-2 victory over Detroit in

Chicago’s home opener.

But the most positive sign for Peavy and the White Sox came on

Wednesday night, when he pitched seven crisp innings in an 8-1

victory against Baltimore. It was his longest outing since he

pitched eight shutout innings at Minnesota on August 7.

”You don’t do the things that Jake’s done over his career and

not have that drive,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, ”and

that’s the one thing that people describe him. He’s a good teammate

and really competes and there’s a lot more than just competing

between the lines. You almost have to compete with yourself

sometimes, to push yourself to overcome some things.”

Peavy improved to 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA over 19 2-3 innings. He

also has 21 strikeouts to just two walks, a ratio that harkens back

to his Cy Young season, when he had a major league-best 240 Ks and

only 68 walks.

”I should throw strikes. That’s part of being in the big

leagues,” said Peavy, who will make his next start Monday at

Oakland. ”I’m going to find out where I stand. I told you guys,

one way or the other, something’s going to happen in a hurry. I’m

going to throw it in there and find out where we stand.”

The White Sox acquired Peavy in a deadline deal in 2009, sending

four young pitchers to the Padres to complete the trade. He was

injured at the time of the move, sidelined by a strained tendon in

his right ankle, and his comeback was slowed when he was hit on the

elbow by a line drive during a minor league rehab game. But he

managed to make three starts with his new team, going 3-0 with a

1.35 ERA.

Peavy made 17 starts in 2010 and was just starting to pick up

steam when he hopped off the mound and immediately walked to the

dugout after throwing a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels. The

diagnosis was a detached muscle in the back of his right shoulder –

a rare injury that led to season-ending surgery.

Then there was rotator cuff tendinitis during spring training

last year and a trip to the disabled list for a mild right groin

strain before he was shut down in September so he could rest and

hopefully return to full strength for this season.

So far, it appears the conservative strategy may have

worked.

”I never was over here healthy,” Peavy said. ”I mean even the

start of 2010 we were battling arm issues and still trying to get

my ankle up underneath me and piece the mechanics together. So this

is the first time I’ve truly worried about pitching and I feel

blessed to do that.”

It was a long road back to this point for Peavy, who hasn’t made

more than 18 starts in a season since 2008. This season has just

started, but his comeback has added to his reputation around

baseball as a hard worker.

Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who battled back from a rotator cuff

injury early in his career, said the fact that Peavy is pitching

effectively again after the serious shoulder injury says something

about who he is as a player.

”You learn how to pitch and you know you can still get hitters

out,” he said. ”You know you haven’t lost the competitiveness.

Specifically about him, I always heard that he was max-effort guy,

that he was a great competitor. So none of those things change. I

just think that you just go out and you still react to how the

hitters react to you and you take your chances.”

Robin Ventura took over as White Sox manager in October, but he

has already seen Peavy’s competitive nature firsthand. The

right-hander lobbied to extend his outing against the Rangers, but

Ventura stayed with his plan.

”He wants to stay in,” Ventura said. ”I like that. I like to

see that.”

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap