Ballantini: Smooth sailing for Peavy continues

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Ballantini: Smooth sailing for Peavy continues

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011Posted: 2:43 p.m. Updated: 4:54 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

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.
Peeved

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.

Sales Set

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.

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.