Ballantini: Peavy is still 'all-in' for Opening Day

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Ballantini: Peavy is still 'all-in' for Opening Day

Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011
2:05 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

What impressed about Jake Peavys session with reporters on Tuesday wasnt that it was delayed a few minutes because hed literally just stepped off the mound after a workout, or that manager Ozzie Guillen felt compelled to interrupt Peavy by shouting, you better be ready for spring training or Im gonna get fired.

It was the no-bull, bullheaded hurlers unmitigated devotion to a White Sox team he felt hes let down in his short time in Chicago and pure drive he has to right a career thats fallen off-track in the American League, after a half-dozen dominant campaigns for the San Diego Padres.

This winters been miserable, Peavy said, acknowledging everything from his rehab from a season-ending latissimus dorsi tear on July 6, a recent illness of his fathers and unseasonably cold weather. But Ive been out there, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, playing catch. Im pushing it, while listening to my body. But I want to be ready by Opening Day. I think I can be.

Peavy created a stir at SoxFest in January (via general manager Ken Williams) by texting the GM with his typical enthusiasm, something the ace embarrassingly chuckled away when reminded on Tuesday.

I was just sending him an update, Peavy said. You know me. I was fired up.

Peavy also acknowledged after he was acquired by the Chisox at the 2009 trading deadline with an injured ankle, Williams wanted him to proceed with caution.

Kenny tried to put the brakes on me hard, to his credit, said the righthander. I pushed right through those brakes and said, Kenny, Im going good. Let me go, let me start.

Peavy spun three tantalizing games for the White Sox in September 2009, going 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA and .850 WHIP. But to hear him tell it, things were already running off the rails.

Winning those three games, it wasnt me, Peavy said. I got into some bad habits by favoring my ankle. I was trying too hard to come back, and it wasnt a good move on my part.

Peavy added that it took until video sessions at the end of April 2010 before he and pitching coach Don Cooper saw how badly his mechanics had fallen off.

The launching point for Peavys comeback is his recovery from a slow start in 2010. After correcting his mechanics, Peavy went 3-2 with a 1.75 ERA and .917 WHIP in five June starts, including a complete-game shutout at the Washington Nationals on June 19. Three starts later, on July 6, Peavy was lost for the season with his muscle tear.

I found myself, and had a strong month, Peavy said. That helps because I dont have to worry about finding my mechanics or arm slot again. Its something you build on, working from a positive place. If you have to get hurt, its better to get hurt when youre pitching well than poorly.

Peavy estimates himself at 60 to 70 percent but acknowledged that at his time of the offseason, no pitchers arm is at full strength.

I can tell my arm is not that strong, because its taking me longer than usual to get my arm strength back, he said. But even healthy you always hope that spring training pulls arm strength up.

The nine-year veteran reported with confidence that hed completed at the end of January his three-month throwing rehabilitation program, one that was constructed virtually out of thin air by White Sox staff, surgeons and doctors due to the uniqueness of Peavys injury. The pitchers Tuesday workout consisted of a half-hour of 120-foot long toss throwing at full strength, with no mental reluctance and a 40-pitch mix of fastballs and changeups off the mound. The ace planned on two more sessions off the mound prior to pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training on Feb. 17. Once in Glendale, Peavy will undergo an MRI and sit down with Cooper and others to plot his navigation through March.

Ill be the ringleader and try to push the envelope to make sure Im ready as soon as possible, Peavy said. Im sure they will play devils advocate. Only I know how Im feeling, but Im going to be reverent toward the coaches and staff I need to be reverent toward.

One difference that Peavy noted about rehabbing from the first arm injury hes ever suffered is that hes no longer quickly ready to pitch a la Mark Buehrle. But despite the longer pregame bullpen sessions and greater overall caution paid to the health of his arm, Peavy anticipates great success both for him and the entire five-man rotation in 2011.

Its a huge swing either way being ready or not on Opening Day, Peavy said. If Im healthy, it makes us a deeper and better team. I love all the starting pitchers we have, and all five of us, the team should be able to lean on when it needs to.

As for his potential rotation fill-in, rookie Chris Sale, Peavy ravedand apparently, so did a key White Sox nemesis.

I saw Joe Mauer this offseason down in Cabo, and he went on and on about the ability and stuff of Sale, Peavy said. Believe me, Im not trying to keep Chris out of the rotationbut him at the back end of our bullpen makes us stronger. But his presence means if I have to miss a turn or two, so be it.

Presumably slotting into the No. 5 spot in the rotation, Peavy would not have to take the mound until April 9 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. Whether or not hes able to pitch in front of an adoring U.S. Cellular Field crowd a mere two months from now, Peavy is calmera bit calmer, at leastand more philosophical about his rebound, at the wise, old age of 29.

An injury like this makes you a stronger person, he said. I appreciate the game better than I ever have. Im going to be the guy Ozzie feels I can be. Im eager to show people that I have a lot of years left.

Short Stops

Peavy was giddy with this winters White Sox acquisitions, particularly Adam Dunn: We were too righthanded-dominant last year, with no power and balance in the batting order Ive faced Dunn many times, and he gets on base. I cant see 40 home runs not happening for Dunn in our ballpark.

On rookie Brent Morel: I hear Morel might be our third baseman this year. I loved the defense he played last season.

On Alexei Ramirezs defensive wizardry: I dont know how the voting goes for the Gold Glove, but I dont see many people in the AL better defensively.

Peavy said the Minnesota Twins are still the team to beat in the AL Central (weve got our work cut out for us) and that even with the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians rebuilding the AL Central is absolutely a great division.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Preview: White Sox continue series with Tigers on CSN

Preview: White Sox continue series with Tigers on CSN

The White Sox continue their road series with the Tigers on Tuesday night in the Motor City, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage from Detroit starts at 6 p.m. Then be sure to stick around following the final out for reaction and analysis on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today's starting pitching matchup: Anthony Ranaudo (0-1, 7.88 ERA) vs. Daniel Norris (2-2, 3.63 ERA)

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

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— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Isaiah Wright, young fan with cancer, receives VIP treatment from White Sox

Isaiah Wright, young fan with cancer, receives VIP treatment from White Sox

Berwyn-native and White Sox fan Isaiah Wright entered the world fighting the odds. At just 14 years old, he has undergone multiple organ transplants and more than 50 surgeries because of a rare birth defect.

Isaiah and his family have an appreciation for just how precious life can be and they were able to make the most of a recent visit to the South Side for a White Sox game, where he received VIP treatment and met his favorite players, including a private meeting with Jose Abreu.

Check out the video above.

A Go Fund Me page was also created to help support Isaiah and his family. Click here to make a donation.

Tigers' late homer sends the White Sox to another tough loss

Tigers' late homer sends the White Sox to another tough loss

DETROIT — The White Sox still haven’t figured out how to beat their American League Central foes.

Short of a miracle run over their final 32 games, the White Sox can point to their failures within their division as a primary reason they’ve missed the postseason for eight straight seasons.

The middle of the White Sox order missed out on several key chances on Monday night and kept the Detroit Tigers within striking distance in a 4-3 loss in front 27,201 on Monday night at Comerica Park. Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s two-run homer off Nate Jones in the eighth inning dropped the White Sox to 11-27 against the Tigers, Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals this season. The White Sox dropped to 21-25 in one-run games.

“Usually when you have aspirations to get in the playoffs your No. 1 priority is always taking care of the teams in your division,” catcher Alex Avila said. “That’s the best way to go about it, and we haven’t really done that too well this year.”

Much like their postseason aspirations, the White Sox had been hanging on by a thread through seven innings on Monday.

Starter James Shields stranded seven in six innings, and the combination of Dan Jennings, Tommy Kahnle and Chris Beck kept the White Sox ahead 3-2 through the seventh.

Jones took over in the eighth and issued a leadoff walk to J.D. Martinez. Two batters later, Saltalamacchia ripped a 1-0 fastball out to right to put Detroit ahead for good.

Melky Cabrera’s bid for a game-tying homer in the ninth off Francisco Rodriguez was caught on the track in right-center field.

“Any time you get that reversal right there late in the game it’s always tough,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Nate has been as consistent as anybody. It’s a tough one, especially when you know he has his stuff. You tip your cap to them, really.

“Salty has gotten us a couple times late.

“That was the tough one because you grinded your way through it.”

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It was made even more difficult given the White Sox offense missed out on several key opportunities.

Tyler Saladino drove in all three White Sox runs, delivering a two-run single in the fourth inning and putting them back ahead by a run with a solo homer in the seventh.

But in the first, Jose Abreu struck out and Todd Frazier flew out with two aboard.

Abreu later grounded into a double play in the fifth after the first two men reached and Frazier grounded out. Frazier also struck out with two in scoring position to end the seventh inning after Abreu doubled Cabrera over to third.

The White Sox finished 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.

“It was a game with opportunities we didn’t cash in on,” Ventura said. “(Alex) Wilson came in and got a big double play really changed how that (fifth) inning developed. We did some good things but looking at it like this, that’s what makes it tough.”

Though he pushed the limit in nearly every inning, Shields finished a rough August on a high note. Much like he did when he posted a 1.71 ERA in six starts from June 29-July 26, Shields was most effective when he needed to make the big pitch.

Tigers hitters were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven against Shields. During the six-game stretch, opposing hitters went 0-for-28 against Shields with runners in scoring position.

He struck out six and allowed two earned runs in six innings, putting the White Sox in position for a much-needed win.

“The first couple of innings I was a little erratic, but as the game went on, I got a little more comfortable and just made some pitches when I needed to,” Shields said. “Overall, I felt good out there, and unfortunately we lost the game.”