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.

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He maybe doesn't receive the same hype as some of his peers, but the White Sox think Reynaldo Lopez deserves plenty of attention.

A highly-touted prospect for two seasons now, Lopez took a big leap forward in a 2016 season that resulted in two promotions, including a trip to the big leagues.

While Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito have garnered much of the attention, Lopez, who was acquired with Giolito in the Adam Eaton trade, is right on their heels if not equal. Lopez -- who produced a 3.21 ERA in 19 minor-league starts last season and struck out 42 batters in 44 innings in the majors -- is rated the No. 31 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and 38th by MLB.com.

"He's looked good from the get-go," pitching coach Don Cooper said. "The bottom line is we like all three of them. I didn't hear a lot (about him). When people are asking me questions it's usually about Giolito and Kopech. I'm not sure why because he's a gifted kid. He's got some stuff."

Lopez, 23, already has pitched in 11 regular season games (six starts) and made a playoff appearance. He earned those outings by excelling in a season that began at Double-A Harrisburg. Two seasons after he put up outstanding numbers at Single-A, Lopez dominated the Eastern League with 100 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings and 3.18 ERA. He attributes his success to calming himself down in game situations.

"I just kept my focus in the game," Lopez said through an interpreter. "Before, I thought a lot about things and I couldn't think. And then I realized to keep my focus on the game. Sometimes if someone hit me or something, my mind got stuck in that moment. But then I understood you have to have a short memory and just let the things that are happening (be) in the past and focus on what's happening."

Lopez, 23, said he has taken the same approach to handling his trade to the White Sox. The right-hander admits he was shocked at first when he heard he was traded by the Washington Nationals, who signed him for $17,000 in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic.

But the more he thought about it, Lopez realized how good of an opportunity he has in front of him with the rebuilding White Sox. The club intends to try Lopez out as a starter --- there's debate among scouting analysts whether he's meant for the bullpen or rotation --- at Triple-A Charlotte this season. Asked what he prefers, Lopez said he's a starter.

And rather than try to impress the club by overthrowing a fastball that MLB.com graded 70 on the 20-80 scale, Lopez has worked on location early in camp. Those efforts haven't gone unnoticed by Cooper and manager Rick Renteria.

"Lopez is a guy who maybe goes under the radar a little bit, but when you see his bullpen work, he's pretty clean, pretty efficient," Renteria said. "He hits his spots."

Through four throwing sessions, Cooper said he likes how Lopez has located his fastball and curveball. Cooper thinks the changeup, which is the lowest graded of his three pitches (45 out of 80), is where the most work is needed. But Cooper is pleased with how Lopez has worked in the bullpen and batting practice and looks forward to seeing how it carries over once the exhibition season begins.

Lopez likes how he has fit in with the White Sox through the first week and a half. An aggressive pitcher by nature --- "I like to get ahead in the count," he said --- Lopez has tried to work down in the zone in the early part of camp. He said that was one of his main takeaways from pitching in the majors.

"I learned a lot from that experience," Lopez said. "I learned how to pitch. It's not just throw hard. You have to locate your pitches and be smart. I think that was the most important thing for me, from that experience."

White Sox Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with executive vice president Ken Williams

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with executive vice president Ken Williams

GLENDALE, ARIZ -- Ken Williams acknowledges that this is the first time as an executive that he's ever been a part of a rebuild.  After realizing their go-for-it attitude for more than a decade had run out of steam, the White Sox front office decided it needed to look in the mirror, take a step back, and start anew. It began this offseason with the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, and will continue into this season and likely next season.

No longer involved in the day-to-day running of the White Sox, Williams believes he has found the right balance as the team's executive and vice president, utilizing his strengths in scouting and player development while overseeing things as Hahn reshapes the organization from top to bottom.

How does this dynamic work between Williams and Hahn? Williams goes in-depth on this subject and many others in our White Sox Talk Podcast conversation.

Among the highlights:

Working relationship with Rick Hahn: "The relationship has been the same and consistent since the very beginning.  We're constantly talking.  I'm not going to BS you and say that we don't have these conversations. I just think that a certain point in time, you just have to say here is your responsibility and mine is over here. I have to respect the fact that this is what you want to do. I'm only going to express my interest to a point so that you can come to your own decision without my influence and then we're getting to brass tax.  Most times than not, he'll express, 'Hey, I need to know what you think. But until that time you've got to give people the space to do a job as they see fit, and to plot a course as they see fit."

Trading Chris Sale: "Contrary to popular belief, we have enjoyed a great relationship over the years. There was obviously a little blip in that part of it and I've always understood him because I was a little bit like that when I was younger too.  It was very often a couple days later we'd visit and laugh about a couple things but also in a serious manner.  he's one of the best in the game.  How do you trade one of the best pitchers in the game and not feel some remorse about it?  On the other end of the spectrum we got what we think are special pieces that will be with us for quite a while assuming good health. And you can envision them being part of a championship team.  We got to the point where we couldn't envision that particular group that we had be a part of a championship team and that's what it's about."

Possibly trading Jose Quintana: "I have not been presented with anything that has been recommended by Rick that he wants to do. So in terms of closeness, we've bantered some things around, but Jose Quintana is a very, very special pitcher. I'm sure if something comes up where it's consistent with what we've done thus far then I'm sure Rick will put it in front of both Jerry and I.  But until that time, I can't say that anything has been close or relatively close."

His hopes for the White Sox: "My only goal at this point in my career is to help bring another championship to Chicago and to Chicago fans, watch Rick Hahn walk across the stage to receive an Executive of the Year award and watch Rick Renteria accept the Manager of the Year Award.  Then I will consider this a job well done. If any of those things don't happen, then it won't be.  I sincerely feel that in my heart."