Peavy's long road back to the top

750158.png

Peavy's long road back to the top

KANSAS CITY -- Jake Peavy described the week that led up to Tuesdays All-Star Game as a wild ride.

But the White Sox starting pitcher, who on Thursday lost the Final Vote contest to Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish and was a last-minute addition Sunday to the American League roster, might as well have referenced the five years in between All-Star appearances.

Since he last played in All-Star Game in San Francisco in 2007 for the San Diego Padres, Peavy has won a unanimous Cy Young award, received a contract extension for a guaranteed 56 million, been traded to the White Sox twice, including once while he was injured, and later dealt with a career-threatening shoulder injury and the long road to recovery. Not an easy load for a guy who has no problem with admitting hes an emotional guy on all fronts.

Were here and I couldnt be more excited after what weve been through, Peavy said. I cant tell you last year when I was a year out of that major surgery and trying to make it back and going out there with the stuff I had, feeling the way I had, I never would have imagined a year later Id be talking to you from the All-Star Game.

Granted, this isnt the same Jake Peavy from five years earlier.

When he received all 32 first-place Cy Young votes in 2007, Peavy was purely a stuff guy. His fastball, which averaged 92.5 mph but routinely reached 95, and his slider, accounted for more than 80 percent of his pitches.

The Peavy who is now two years removed from a detached latissimus dorsi muscle injury in his right shoulder turns to his curveball and changeup far more often. His fastball averages 90.5 mph.

Teammate Adam Dunn prefers the current version.

Hes a smarter pitcher (now), Dunn said. He had great stuff back then. Im not saying he doesnt have it now. But he never threw changeups. He never threw curveballs. Now, obviously he doesnt have 95 anymore. Hes got his 92, which is really, plenty now. Hes got a really good changeup now that hes worked on, because he had to. And his slider is still sharp and now hes throwing the curveball as well. Hes evolved into a pitcher instead of more of a thrower.

One aspect of Peavys game, which hasnt changed, nor will it, is his emotional state on the mound. Peavy has long been known for his competitive fire. Its what many consider to have helped him overcome the fact that hes not as tall and is much skinnier than many of the pitchers he competes against.

A Peavy start is normally accompanied by several scenes of the pitcher cursing himself as he yanks a slider or doesnt properly locate a fastball.

It is a show, teammate Chris Sale said. Thats him being a competitor and trying to pretty much perfect pitching. He goes out every time and tries to be his best and when hes not, hes not happy. Its fun to watch. You pick up things. It works for him and it works very well.

Peavys fiery side allowed him to return from what St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday describes as uncharted territory. Peavys shoulder surgery, to repair a muscle that had completely fallen off the bone, was the first of its kind.

Though doctors expected him to be as healthy as he would be after 18 months, Peavy wasnt certain hed ever be capable of pitching at the level that allowed him to go 92-68 with the Padres. The only thing Peavy was certain about was he would do everything he could to give himself a chance to again become one of the games top pitchers.

Holliday, who faced him in St. Louis last month, said Peavy has regained his status as an elite-level pitcher. It isnt unexpected, either, Holliday said.

For him to be back to where he is now is impressive, but not surprising, Holliday said. Ive known Jake a little bit. Im not really surprised. Hes always been an elite pitcher and hes had a couple of years with injuries, but hes back to where I expect him to be. He was nearly unhittable (then). But hes still a very good pitcher. Hes as competitive as ever and as anybody in the game. He knows how to pitch and he probably knows how to pitch a little better now than he did then.

As for the flair and competitive drive on the mound, Peavy never lost it and Dunn is certain he never will.

Someone like him, it doesnt matter, Dunn said. In 15 or 20 or 30 years from now, well be on the golf course and itll be the same thing. You dont lose that.

Peavy hasnt lost his ability to comprehend where he is, either

He was excited his stall was several feet from Dunn. After the struggles both shared in 2011, Peavy knows he and Dunn will enjoy the All-Star experience as much as any rookie or first-time competitor in the clubhouse.

After what we went through together last year its super gratifying, Peavy said. It means the world. You never take this for the granted.

Watch: Chris Sale loses to fan in rock-paper-scissors, pays up with autograph

sox_pgl_05-31_640x360_696385603806.jpg

Watch: Chris Sale loses to fan in rock-paper-scissors, pays up with autograph

Chris Sale has a terrific 9-1 record this season.

His rock-paper-scissors record is not nearly as good.

Sale played a high-stakes game of rock-paper-scissors against a fan at Tuesday night's White Sox-Mets tilt at Citi Field, and the South Side ace didn't fare so well.

He was a good sport, though, honoring the challenge and paying up with an autograph.

Take a look:

Fun times at the ballpark. And a cool moment featuring the guy who could wind up starting the All-Star Game.

White Sox bullpen hopes its fortunes have changed in win over Mets

ventura_post_05-31_640x360_696409667747.jpg

White Sox bullpen hopes its fortunes have changed in win over Mets

NEW YORK — David Robertson may call his next charitable endeavor No Socks For Wins.

Looking to change his and the bullpen’s fortunes on Tuesday, the White Sox closer wore his pant legs all the way down in a scoreless inning to close out a 6-4 victory over the New York Mets at Citi Field — one that snapped a seven-game losing streak.

Robertson, Zach Putnam, Dan Jennings and Nate Jones combined for four scoreless innings to lead the White Sox, who rallied from four runs down, to their first victory since the opening game of a May 23 doubleheader. In between, the White Sox bullpen blew three games late in Kansas City, including allowing a seven-spot in the ninth inning Saturday.

Robertson, who routinely wears his pants hiked up to expose his stirrups, runs a foundation with his wife Erin for tornado victims called High Socks For Hope. But after he allowed six runs Saturday, he wanted to mix things up a bit. Robertson said he also wore a different, lighter jersey and shaved his beard in between.

“Listen, we’re mixing it up,” Robertson said. “We needed a win, so I went with them down. I wore a different jersey. It felt uncomfortable, but it worked.”

The White Sox need more performances like this from the bullpen if they want to rediscover a formula that led them to a 23-10 record.

The unit recorded a 1.69 ERA in April as they stormed out in front of the American League Central. But that same group has struggled for the past three weeks with the low point coming in Kansas City when they collectively allowed 14 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. The bullpen entered Tuesday 1-7 with a 4.85 ERA in May. Included in those totals are losses in games in which the White Sox lead by four, five and six runs.

“It was good to see the bullpen back to their old selves,” said starter Mat Latos, who allowed four runs (two earned) in five innings.”

Latos retired eight of the last 10 he faced before he gave way to Putnam, who struck out Asdrubal Cabrera with two aboard to end the sixth inning and keep the White Sox down a run. Jennings, who allowed a run in Friday’s loss, pitched around a single in a scoreless seventh. He earned the victory when the White Sox rallied for three runs in the eighth.

Jones, who lost after he allowed three runs in Sunday’s loss, pitched around a two-out single in the eighth to get it to Robertson. Robertson struck out Cabrera and Michael Conforto and retired Yoenis Cespedes on a fly out to right.

The bullpen also pitched a scoreless inning in Monday’s loss.

“You’re starting to piece that back together as rough as it has been the last week for those guys at the end,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It was a nice job by those guys and you’ve got to stick with them.”

Only Robertson — who has 13 saves in 15 tries — knows if he’ll stick with the low pant legs. But at least for one night they worked.

“It’s definitely a much better feeling than we’ve had the last few days,” Robertson said. “Knowing that we’re going to get the final out and get a win, it feels nice. We’ve been playing really hard, but things just haven’t worked out. We hit a little bump in the road, but hopefully today’s a start toward getting us back on track.”

Tyler Saladino's homer helps White Sox snap seven-game skid

saladino_post_game_on_field_05-31_640x360_696379971594.jpg

Tyler Saladino's homer helps White Sox snap seven-game skid

NEW YORK — Tyler Saladino delivered a sweet — and long overdue — sound to the White Sox on Tuesday night.

The shortstop capped off a career game with a two-run homer in the eighth inning as the White Sox rallied from four down and snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 6-4 win over the New York Mets in front of 32,781 at Citi Field.

Saladino’s homer off reliever Hansel Robles lifted the White Sox to their first win since the opening game of a May 23 doubleheader. He reached base a career-high four times as he also singled, walked twice and stole two bases. David Robertson capped off four scoreless innings from the bullpen with his 13th save.

“It’s huge,” Saladino said. “Losing, especially losing up here, that’s tough. It’s tough on everybody. It weighs on you a little bit. You definitely lose a little bit of sleep. But getting the win, I mean it’s a boost of morale.”

They needed the boost in the worst way.

Losers in six straight series, the White Sox appeared headed for a seventh as Mets starter Steven Matz dominated them early. They trailed 4-0 through five innings. The White Sox showed a much-needed sign of life with a three-run rally off Matz in the sixth.

Several days after manager Robin Ventura addressed them following a loss to the Kansas City Royals, the White Sox completed their comeback off Robles and two Mets relievers in the eighth.

“It can look bleak,” Ventura said. “You’ve got a guy like Matz pitching the way he’s pitching and you can just lay down but they won’t do it.

“You’re down 4-0, I think a lesser group rolls over and just gives up and they won’t do that.”

With one out and Melky Cabrera on first after a leadoff walk, Saladino fouled off three straight Robles fastballs before he ripped a 2-2 heater out to left field for a two-run homer to put the White Sox ahead for good. Saladino — who also had a three-run homer in Saturday’s loss at Kansas City — briefly looked into the visiting dugout as he rounded third.

“I’m just so pumped for the guys to take the lead,” Saladino said. “You got to give it to them. This is a team and everybody is pulling for each other. Every time you do something good, everybody is there ready to high five. It was just a team hit right there. Felt really good for the guys rounding third.”

The White Sox continued to apply pressure in the eighth as Robles walked pinch-hitter Jimmy Rollins and stole second, the team’s fourth of the game. Adam Eaton also walked again and Brett Lawrie jumped on the first pitch from Logan Verrett for a two-out RBI single and a critical insurance run.

Matz had the White Sox stymied in the early going. He induced nothing but grounders in the first few innings and didn’t allow a hit until the third. Matz, who entered with a scoreless streak of 14, cruised through the fifth inning, too.

But trailing 4-0, the White Sox finally broke through in the sixth inning.

Jose Abreu singled off the glove of James Loney and Todd Frazier crushed a two-run homer to left-center field, his 16th. After Avisail Garcia grounded into a double play, Saladino kept the inning alive with a walk. He easily stole second and third base before Navarro chased Matz when he singled just over the shortstop’s glove to get the White Sox within 4-3. Matz allowed three earned runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out three.

Pitching on seven days rest, White Sox starter Mat Latos didn’t have it easy in the early innings.

He allowed two unearned runs before yielding a two-run homer in the third to fall behind 4-0. But Latos finished strong, retiring eight of the last 10.

He handed it off to the bullpen, a group that allowed 14 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in Kansas City. The group took a big step in the right direction as Zach Putnam, Dan Jennings and Nate Jones all put up zeroes to get the ball to Robertson.

Robertson said Ventura merely implored the team to keep fighting, something it displayed in each loss at Kansas City before the bullpen’s meltdowns.

“That’s the way our whole team has been thinking,” Robertson said. “We’ve been playing hard, and things just haven’t worked out. If we hit well we didn’t pitch well, and if we pitched well we didn’t hit well. You just need things to work out for you and today they did.”