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.