Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011Posted: 2:43 p.m. Updated: 4:54 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
GLENDALE, Ariz Well, drama sells, but nobodys buying at Chicago White Sox camp so far this spring training.
The early return on this budget-busting bunch of Chisox is smiles all around. On Wednesday, pitchers threw to hitters in live batting practice for the first time, and that was a topic of some apprehension in one corner of the clubhouse before workouts, as Juan Pierre indicated some nervousness about facing John Danks after the lefty had gone some four months without throwing to a batter.
Theres just that little bit of doubt, Danks said, after Pierre had outlined some escape strategies in case of wildness. I dont mind hitting batters, but not the guys on your own team.
Danks explained that in order to ease into throwing to live batters, he works on hitting his spots away, then gradually moves toward the inner half of the plate.
Pierres worries were unfounded. It was in fact lefty fireballer Matt Thornton who sent him Speedy Gonzalezing in the batters box. Danks, meanwhile, had an entertaining exchange with catching prospect Tyler Flowers, who was mauling some of his pitches. Finally, Danks announced he was throwing a cutter, and promptly sawed the barrel off of Flowers bat, sending it flying to deep shortstop.
No, White Sox hurler Jake Peavy isnt angry hes cruising through the early portion of his rehabilitation from latissimus dorsi surgery.
Peavy threw to Omar Vizquel, Lastings Milledge, and Eduardo Escobar during his portion of live BP two sets of 20 pitches, approximating two innings work and by all accounts the session was better than anticipated. Pitching coach Don Cooper exclaimed his encouragement on more than one occasion, and later confirmed that the righty was on track to not miss a start in April.
Peavy indicated he was feeling no abnormal discomfort afterward, and what ill effects he was feeling was completely normal for spring training in fact an encouraging sign that hes keeping up with his fellow White Sox starters.
Its just another step in the right direction, obviously, Peavy said. It has been a long process of rehabilitation and these last few days have been as grueling as youll have as far as getting your arm in shape. There is some soreness, but I was just in the clubhouse talking about their soreness and them trying to get through it as well.
He had better stuff, increased intensity, and the ball was going more where the glove was, said pitching coach Don Cooper. Now, he is as tough a judge on things as anybody I have every had he will throw pitches that I like, but he doesnt like. Thats him. But Im sitting back there liking everything whatever pitch he was throwing. It had a little more zip on it.
Ramon Castro, who caught Peavys session, thought that the fireballers breaking stuff was season-ready Peavy said he threw about 10-12 breaking pitches but the backstop estimated his fastball at around 70-80 percent.
He was nice, throwing every pitch fastball, slider, curveball, changeup for a strike, Castro said. It looked like the old Peavy in terms of breaking ball stuff. The fastball is not there yet, but hes going to get there.
It was a big accomplishment for Peavy to succeed with his breaking stuff, something he hadnt done consistently in his rehabilitation to this point.
I said the last time I threw a few just to try to get a feel for breaking pitches, Peavy said. Yesterday in playing catch, I threw in a few more. But before you get out there in a game you want to have a little bit more of a feel if you need to throw one.
While its tempting to prematurely judge Peavy fit for a fifth starters duty on April 9, not missing a turn on the season, the fireballer himself isnt attaching that sort of pressure to his early spring training work.
It really doesnt mean a whole lot to me, Peavy said of breaking camp in the rotation. I just want to be healthy. I want to be healthy for the majority of the season. If Im healthy this whole season and throw 200 innings with the guys, its certainly something I want to do. But if I dont, I dont see myself being that far behind. I just want to make sure when I get back theres not any kind of setbacks.
Count Peavys pitching coach as sold on the toughness of his hurlers remarkably fast comeback.
First of all, for him to be out there in many ways is impressive, Cooper said. Hes throwing the ball better. He probably went up a notch in intensity. He threw more breaking balls. He certainly is doing what everybody else is doing. Its a credit to the surgeons, Jake and trainer Herm Schneider following up on all the things he is supposed to be doing.
He certainly has more to do and climb. But I dont think the climb could be going any nicer than it is right now.
Peavys next work off the mound comes on Saturday, in a workout to be determined.
To be sure, Chris Sale is cherishing his role as a full-time baseball player; remember, a year ago, he was juggling his college pitching with schoolwork.
I can put 100 percent of my focus on baseball instead of going to the field, then going to class, maybe having an exam and next week having to study and have a paper due in a couple of days, Sale said. I can really just focus all of my attention on baseball. Its definitely worked out a lot better for me this year, just going through it.
For a pitcher whos just a few days into his first training camp, hes cherishing the experience.
Its definitely a change of pace, Sale said, laughing at the thought of where he was a year ago, a relatively nondescript starter at Florida Gulf Coast University. Its different. I love it: Come here in the morning, get your work in, start your day out pretty good, wake up early. Im eating a couple more meals a day than I would. The thing that I like is that Im getting a lot better sleep because I dont have to worry about going to class, practice, study hall and stuff like that.
I mean, last night, I fell asleep at 8:30.
Judging by the sideline debate on Wednesday, Sale is also an under-the-radar Rookie of the Year candidate, with many people being unaware that Sale still qualifies for the award.
Ask him, and when it comes to winning the Rookie of the Year, Sale doesnt much care either way. But if he wins it, hes not exactly going to send it back.
Rookie of the Year talk comes up, but at the same time Im just worried about going out there and performing, Sale said. You cant really have that goal in mind. The ultimate goal is getting to the playoffs and ultimately winning a championship.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.