Could relief be in Peavy's future?

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Could relief be in Peavy's future?

Jake Peavy set the bar for 2012 at 30 starts and 200 innings, a high mark to shoot for given he hasn't hit either of those numbers since winning the National League Cy Young in 2007. But Peavy, who turns 31 in May, has repeatedly talked up his health this spring training, as he's done in years past -- but this time, the news is positive.

However, if he can't reach that 200-inning mark in 2012, Peavy told Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com that he'd be open to considering a relief role in the future.

"If I can't stay healthy for 200 innings, if somebody says something about closing or being a reliever, I can do that, I can be a reliever," Peavy said. "How do I know that? I can be a reliever because I think I can. That's the bottom line. I can do something because I believe I can do it. If it comes down to that, I'll do it because I love this game."

That transition from being a starter who's plagued by injuries to the bullpen has paid off for a few pitchers, including Kerry Wood and John Smoltz. But both those guys had relief pitcher profiles -- i.e. mid-to-high 90's fastballs with a devastating slider.

Peavy gets by with four or five pitches and his fastball velocity has tailed off in recent years. Perhaps a move to one or two-inning situations in the bullpen would lead to a velocity spike, which we did witness in Peavy's only relief appearance of his career.

Last June, Peavy pitched four outstanding innings in relief against Washington, striking out seven without allowing a walk or a run. His fastball maxed out at 95 miles per hour early into his outing and averaged about 93 miles per hour over those four innings, about two miles per hour faster than his season fastball average.

So, based on that game, Peavy does have it in him to reach back and find the mid-90s. And he was mainly fastballslider in the game, throwing only four changeups and three curveballs.

While concerns over his durability would still persist, maybe a move to the bullpen would actually be beneficial to Peavy at least in terms of extending his career with success. He may ultimately remain more valuable as an oft-injured starter than a healthy reliever, but it'd be hard to blame him for trying something different after years of frustration.

Even if Peavy falls well short of his goals in 2012, don't expect him to move the bullpen on his next contract. It'd be worth it for him to give starting one more shot, probably on a one-year deal, before deciding to market himself as a reliever.

But another year of tired arms, injuries and the like may begin to push Peavy's needle from the rotation to bullpen. He's certainly thinking about it already.

Preview: Chris Sale starts for White Sox against Rays tonight on CSN+

Preview: Chris Sale starts for White Sox against Rays tonight on CSN+

The White Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (16-9, 3.19 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (1-1, 6.16 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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James Shields gets first win in two months as White Sox beat Rays

James Shields gets first win in two months as White Sox beat Rays

James Shields’ time with the White Sox has not gone well. But Monday night was one of the bright spots, and it came against his former team.

Shields allowed just one run in his six innings of work against the visiting Tampa Ray Bays — with whom he spent the first seven seasons of his career — and earned his first win since July 26 as the White Sox opened this four-game set with a 7-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.

Shields didn’t exactly keep the Rays off the bases Monday, running into jams with multiple base runners on in four of his six innings. But he did keep them off the scoreboard, for the most part, getting some help from his defense with a couple double plays. He finished allowing just one run on seven hits with six strikeouts over his six innings.

The win was his first in two months after a brutal August — six starts with four losses and an 11.42 ERA — and a couple of rough outings in September. It was Shields’ sixth victory on the season and fourth since joining the White Sox compared to 18 losses on the season, 11 coming with the White Sox.

“I had a few chances my last few starts to get some wins, but sometimes those things happen,” Shields said. “I’m just trying to finish the season strong right now. Body feels good, arm feels good, so hopefully I can get another win on Saturday to end my season and move into next year.”

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With just one more start on his schedule in the season’s final week, Shields won’t lose a visually upsetting 20 games. Avoiding that number might not make losing 18 or 19 much easier for fans and observers to swallow, but teammates understand what Shields has gone through this season.

“I think we’ve all been through it once or maybe even twice in our career. He works his butt off, though,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “He looks at film. He watches everything he’s doing. To come out with the strong outing today, even in the first inning, getting two runners on and getting out of that jam, it goes to show you his resilience. Whenever he got runners on, he looked relaxed and induced a lot of ground balls which we needed.”

Certainly Shields’ teammates picked him up Monday. The two double plays while he was in the game were just half the infield’s total on the night, two more coming in the seventh and eighth, when Tommy Kahnle and Nate Jones put the first two hitters they faced on in each frame. But the double plays helped end those threats and keep the Rays down.

The White Sox struck first with a run in the first inning, Melky Cabrera scoring on Justin Morneau’s sacrifice fly. After the Rays tied it up in the fourth with an RBI single, the White Sox punched back, Frazier doubling, stealing third base and scoring on Omar Narvaez’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of that inning.

And as Shields and the relief corps danced out of jams, the White Sox added to their score. Jose Abreu singled in a run in the fifth, but it was a pair of two-run homers off the bats of Morneau and Carlos Sanchez in the seventh and eighth innings that provided the real insurance.

The win was the third straight for the White Sox, something that while positive won’t provide much solace in a season where competing for a playoff spot is a distant memory.

But, like Shields finishing his season strong, White Sox players in general can create individual momentum for each of their offseasons and into next year with good finishes to 2016.

“We want to end on a positive note,” Frazier said. “Everybody wants to meet their goals. Baseball is the most individualistic team sport there is. You have to have your individual goals just like your team goals, and our team goals are out the door right now. You don’t want to play for yourself, but at the same time play for your pitcher a little bit and help him out.”