Another good Peavy start has Sox optimistic

Posted4/14/2012 12:43 AM
  • White Sox's pitcher Jake Peavy delivers against the Tigers in their home opener in Chicago.

    White Sox's pitcher Jake Peavy delivers against the Tigers in their home opener in Chicago. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

It is tempting.

There is no denying it, much as you know the danger.

It is tempting to allow hopes to rise when watching Jake Peavy pitch, because the 2012 version of Peavy has been that good.

But there is always a nagging concern that an integral part of him could fall off, or a vital organ may go missing, something Peavy said he's also tempted now to consider a thing of the past.

"There's nothing going on with me," Peavy said after the Sox defeated the vaunted Tigers 5-2 in the South Siders' home opener Friday. "It's been a long time since I could say that."

Really? Nothing going on at all? Not a shoulder or an elbow or an ankle or a spleen?

"There's honestly no physical problems," Peavy said. "I feel good."

Peavy says it through gnashed teeth, quietly and with head shaking, seemingly afraid to offer a diagnosis with confidence, lest the baseball gods curse him with injury again.

"I used to wake up on my start day and be so excited because I couldn't wait to pitch," Peavy said. "It used to be so much fun, but then the last few years I'd wake up and think, 'How am I gonna get through this day?'

"Now, it's fun again. I think about the lineup I'm gonna face and making pitches and playing baseball. It's a great feeling."

While the Sox improved to 4-2 Friday, Peavy (1-0, 3.55 ERA) pitched his second straight solid outing. In starts against Texas and Detroit, Peavy has allowed 10 hits and 2 walks in 12 innings vs. 13 strikeouts, an impressive showing against two powerful lineups.

"If he's able to do that 30 times this year," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, "we'll be in pretty good shape."

Peavy was very good for 6 innings and 76 pitches, allowing a mere single, but with two outs in the seventh, Delmon Young hit a 2-run homer to cut the Sox' lead to 3-2.

At 94 pitches, about 20 more than Peavy needed to hit the wall last year, manager Robin Ventura wisely removed him, handing the game to a Sox bullpen that leads all American League teams with a 1.76 ERA.

"I expect that from him," Ventura said of Peavy. "He's not gonna throw 97 anymore, but he still knows how to pitch and he competes and has good stuff."

It remains to be seen how much the White Sox will hit in 2012, but their baserunning is better, the defense has improved, and the Sox look like they might be able to pitch.

Of course, much of that depends on Peavy staying healthy and performing at a high level.

"Since I got to Chicago, it's been one thing after another," Peavy said. "I feel like that's all behind me now. It's fun to take the mound again."

Peavy certainly isn't going to return to his Cy Young velocity and 19-win dominance, but throwing 93-94 with great movement, changing speeds and the smarts of a 30-year-old veteran, he could help keep the Sox relevant in the Central for a few months if he can stay on the field and out of the trainer's room.

"I don't know if (the velocity) will get any better. It is what it is," Peavy said. "The hitters let you know by how they are reacting to the ball.

"I struck out probably as many guys on a fastball as I did on a breaking ball. That's an encouraging sign when you can get guys out with your fastball.

"You would like to see the (mph) numbers creep up where they once were, but at the same time you throw fastballs by somebody and keep guys off balance. That's what you are trying to do."

That's what he did Friday, and in the process getting just enough offensive support and great defensive plays from Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo.

"A good day for the Cubans today. We are liking the Cubans on our side," Peavy said with a devilish smile. "The play from Alexei and the play from Dayan saved the game."

But the early story of the 2012 Sox is Peavy, for whom fans must cross their fingers every time he rears back and fires.

"He's been through two great lineups," Ventura said, "and he's pitched great."

Ventura could not be seen openly knocking on wood, but that doesn't mean he didn't try.

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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