Sox lose, but another positive step for Peavy

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Sox lose, but another positive step for Peavy

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Posted: 3:09 p.m. Updated: 5:33 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Theres nothing Jake Peavy likes better than making major league hitters miss pitches. And for the bulk of his second Cactus League start vs. the San Francisco Giants, he did just that.

Peavy threw 49 pitches, 31 for strikes, in falling one out short of completing four innings the longest outing for a White Sox pitcher so far this spring. The righthander was bounced after Aubrey Huff deposited a cutter into the seats just inside the right-field foul pole at Scottsdale Stadium. The Giants added three runs off of Jeff Gray in the sixth to shoot ahead 4-0. The White Sox halved that lead with back-to-back homers to right field by Adam Dunn and Stefan Gartrell.

Today wasnt as free and easy as the other day, Peavy said. It was certainly a lot of work to get ready, but my body did all we asked it to do. I wasnt very sharp. I had pretty decent stuff. It was just a good step in the right direction, another hurdle to clear and moving on toward my ultimate goal, and thats to break camp with the team.

I dont want to get excited, but out of the rotation, he throws the ball the best right now, Guillen said. Hes hitting his spots, making pitches. I was very glad today, because he was facing the regular Giants lineup. He was supposed to go three innings, he went to the fourth. I was supposed to take him out before the home run; I left him in there because the pitch count was good.

"It was a very exciting day, but were in the same situation we were last time. Its all about how he feels tomorrow. But its a step forward, if you want to call it that.

While Peavy is his own harshest critic, the fella catching him thought it was the best hes seen from the White Sox workhorse.

Peavy threw the ball great: His slider was as good as Ive seen it in the last two years, his control was there, catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. He was a little bit off, but Jake is a perfectionist and if he doesnt throw every single pitch where he wants it, he gets mad. Basically, the home run to Huff was a ball in, off the plate. He had to throw out of the stretch to try to get some work on it because he went so easy the first three innings. He was only supposed to go three, and he almost went four.

Peavy has a 1-2-3 first, throwing nine pitches, six for strikes. He whiffed leadoff hitter Andres Torres on a cutter, then induced increasingly deep fly outs to center from Freddy Sanchez and Huff. Ironically, Peavy had just cracked Huffs bat on a foul grounder before the blast.

Early in the game, yeah you watch how the cutter, Peavy said. In spring training, you feel fresh out of chute. You throw crisp breaking balls, and I threw some good ones early.

In the second, Peavy also retired the side in order. Buster Posey popped out to shortstop Alexei Ramirez, Miguel Tejada was jammed and grounded out weakly to short, and a lazy fly to Juan Pierre ended the inning.

The third saw more of the same, with Peavy firing more strikes, getting Pat Burrell to ground out to short, Cody Ross to pop weakly to second baseman Omar Vizquel, and DH Mark DeRosa to fly out to center.

He was unable to finish the fourth, inducing fly outs from Torres and Sanchez before Huff clocked a 1-2 pitch out of the park.

The pitch Aubrey hit out it was the same cutter that struck out Torres, Peavy said. You lose some command as game goes on but thats part of building and climbing to build endurance.

In the fourth, having allowed no baserunners, Peavy worked from the stretch against both Sanchez and Ross. Yes, its where he gave up the eventual winning run. Its also an inning he wasnt supposed to pitch.

Getting up and down four times was the biggest thing, Peavy said, unsure even of how many pitches he threw in the game. Ozzie and Coop asked me if wanted to go back out. I hadn't thrown out of stretch, and I wanted to go out of the stretch with game-like intensity.

In all, Peavy had one strikeout and one walk, and two of his 10 other outs were ground balls. The righthander is due to make his next start at home on Monday vs. the San Diego Padres.

A good day, all in all, Peavy said. I came out of it healthy and climbing. That's all you can ask for.

It was a great day for the White Sox, again, Guillen said. Every day Peavy goes out there before the season starts, its a great day for us. I didnt expect him to throw this well today. The first outing, youre all pumped up and want to be back on the mound, but the second outing, for me, was very important. He handled it very well.

Rinse and repeat

As Guillen said, Wednesdays outing was spectacular, but it all comes down to how Peavy feels Thursday.

Thats was one of the things were going to monitor: Am I able to bounce back and throw a good side session and have good days of playing catch, and feel up to par to starting five days later? Peavy said. We did that. It was a lot of work, but we got there. I hope that continues to be the case. Im going to have typical soreness and probably am going to go through that dead arm period.

The ball didnt feel like it was coming out the other day like it did vs. Anaheim but like I said, you have these kind of starts. But were on the up and up. That was their 'A' lineup and we got some guys out. They hit the ball hard, but they were being aggressive. I was throwing the ball across the plate so

As Pierzynski noted, Peavy is his own harshest critic, so take his self-flagellation with a grain of salt.

Ham sandwiched

Plus, there was a matter of hamstring tightness that slowed Peavys roll.

I had a little hamstring tightness, Peavy said. We had that going on and wrapped up and like I said, my arm didnt feel that great. So we didnt want to go there and push it, push it, push it. Obviously we faced a pretty good lineup today and had to get some good hitters out, and I did that.

Uh, whats that about a hamstring, Jake?

My right hamstring has a little bit of a knot in it. When you have those little bitty things, theres no sense in going out there in spring training and pushing the envelope. I would even suspect my velocity was probably more down a little bit, because I certainly didnt push it as hard as I pushed it vs. Anaheim. The other day vs. Anaheim I made sure I was healthy and made sure I could throw the ball 90-92 mph without being hurt. I know I can do that now. I just need to find that happy medium of building that arm strength toward the start of the season now.
Adam Dunn hit his first home run of the spring, and while it's only March, both Dunn and manager Ozzie Guillen were relieved to see one finally get out of the park. (AP)
Another good sign from Peavy is that unlike his first start vs. the Angels, he threw all of his pitches against San Francisco, including the changeup he avoided on March 4.

I threw about five changeups, five cutters, five breaking balls, and a lot of fastballs, he said. I was aggressive today, I threw balls across the plate but made them hit it. I got a little tiredagainst Buster, I tried to throw a good sinker but got on top of it for a walk in there late. You start to lose a little command as the game wears on.

Dunn goes Bunyan

Dunn clouted his first homer of the spring in the ninth, a mammoth clout that landed about 430 feet from home plate, above the Salty Pavilion sign in right but slightly short of the Charro Lodge roof. But the affable slugger didnt put much stock in getting his first dinger on the board.

Its good to feel like you can actually still do it, Dunn said. Anytime you square one up, its good. It doesnt matter when it is I come into spring training getting ready for April 1, not March 5. The competitor in you wants to do really good, but you cant expect to do really good when youre kinda getting back into it. Every day Im working, just trying to get ready for opening day and a long season.

Dunns manager was a bit relieved, however.

He needs that for his confidence, Guillen said. Hes swinging the bat pretty good. Hell start swinging the bat better. He swung well in Tucson. I dont worry about him but he needs to take the monkey off his back and relax a bit.

The slugger himself was more tickled by Cody Ross in right field. In the fourth inning, Dunn smashed a single so hard that Ross would have stood a good chance of throwing Dunn out at first. Dunn acknowledged as much, yelling at Ross and making a throwing gesture as he crossed first.

Thats Cody, Dunn laughed.When he was with the Florida Marlins, he would act like hes firing to first every time. So I threw my gum at him.

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

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anthony Swarzak held a high-leverage audition for a potential contender on Sunday long before the Kansas City Royals walked off the White Sox.

The nonroster invitee to big league camp continued a stellar campaign as he took over in a critical spot midgame and helped the White Sox escape with the lead. The White Sox bullpen ultimately relinquished the lead and Brandon Moss sent them to their ninth straight loss — Kansas City won 5-4 — with an RBI double in the ninth inning.

But Swarzak continues to thrive in the opportunities handed to him and could make for an interesting trade chip before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

“He’s been excellent,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s become for us, with (Nate Jones) going down and (Jake Petricka) going down he’s actually become a fireman. He’s come in in some of the highest-leverage situations we could possibly get. And then we use him for multiple innings.”

A free agent after the season, Swarzak has 50 strikeouts and a 2.30 ERA in 47 innings for the White Sox this season. He also has only allowed nine of 33 inherited runners to score (27.2 percent), including two on Sunday. The American League average for inherited runners scoring entering Sunday was 30 percent, according to baseball-reference.com.

All this has come in a season where Swarzak went to camp with the White Sox with no certainty of making the 25-man roster. The right-hander not only thrived in camp, he came out strong in April with 19 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. Combined with early injuries to Jones and Zach Putnam, Swarzak’s performance helped him climb the totem pole in the White Sox bullpen from the outset. His stature has grown even more of late with the injury to Petricka as well as the trades of Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson.

“As far personal expectations, I’m right where I want to be,” Swarzak said. “More to accomplish for this year, absolutely. But I like what I’ve done so far and I like the opportunity that I have to accomplish even more.

“That’s the situation we all work so hard. That’s the situation we want and it’s why we all work so hard in the offseason in general is for situations like that.”

Swarzak took over for starter Derek Holland in the fifth inning with the White Sox ahead 4-3 and runners on the corners. He threw three straight sliders to Jorge Bonifacio and struck him out to strand the pair.

“It was huge, what he did coming in right there,” Holland said.

As significant as it was, it only held off the Royals for the time being. And as much as Swarzak has enjoyed things on a personal level, it isn’t making what the thinned-out White Sox roster is experiencing any easier to handle.

“Everything going on around here right now is pretty hard to swallow,” Swarzak said. “We’re going out there losing 8-0, 6-0, we’re up 6-0 and we end up losing. We lost a 1-0 game against the Dodgers and the next night we lose 10-1. We’re kind of losing all types of ways right now, which is really hard to swallow because as a bullpen guy we take pride in holding the lead and right now it seems like we’re not getting it done at all, any aspect of it, as a group.”

With eight more shopping days left before the deadline, chances are high that Swarzak may not be part of the current group much longer. He has already seen the departures of Robertson and Kahnle and knows his impending free agency could result in a trade elsewhere. But the veteran reliever is doing his best to keep his focus on the mound.

“It all comes back to quality pitches and getting guys out,” Swarzak said. “If you’re getting guys out, you’re going to get some attention from the league and if you’re not they’re going to close the book on you. It’s very straight forward for a pitcher, for a major league baseball player in general: Do better. Get it done and you’re going to play for a long time and you’re going to have the success that goes along with getting it done. That’s really all I’m worried about is continuing to make good pitches and hopefully get the results I’m looking for.”

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rick Renteria wants his players to be able to execute a bunt regardless of how much it drives White Sox fans crazy.

The White Sox manager wants to win now, but he’s also looking at the big picture.

Even though he knows how much a team’s chance of scoring decreases when an out is surrendered via the sacrifice bunt, Renteria is using the opportunity to see what abilities his players have. He wants to know what they can do.

Renteria is well aware that his calls for sacrifice bunts aren’t popular with fans (see: Twitter’s reaction to Yoan Moncada’s bunt tries on Saturday). But he also thinks there’s no better time to work on bunts than during a game. So as much fury as it brings, Renteria will continue to ask his players to work on a skill he’d like to see remain part of the game.

“Listen, (Moncada’s) a plus runner,” Renteria said. “He’s going to be able to use that as a part of his arsenal. I see a whole lot of home run hitters dropping bunts right now against shifts and things of that nature. I don’t think that art should disappear. We’re in the era of quote-unquote the long ball, but like I’ve said, sometimes you need to do certain things to kind of put your club in a better position.

"If you think that’s one of the things that’s available to you, you use it. I don’t think you’re necessarily giving it up in terms of an out, because when you’ve got guys who can run anything is possible. You end up loading the bases possibly. I know our guys are very cognizant of just playing the game. If they feel like they want to get two guys in scoring position on their own, they do it. It’s not something I want to take away from them. I think they read the defenses. Sometimes we talk about other ways of dealing with the defenses, but I think they’re understanding that we’re going to want that to be a part of all their abilities.”

As for the team’s execution, Renteria isn’t satisfied with the results. That means you can expect to see more bunts the rest of the way.

“It’s still a work-in-progress,” Renteria said. “I think that would be a falsehood to say we’re at the point where I go, I’m very, very happy with the way we lay down bunts. It’s still a work-in-progress, something that we’re going to continue to emphasize. Something we’re going to continue to work on. And then again, the only opportunities you get in real time are games, and that’s when you need ‘em.”