With scouts from a handful of teams positioned about as close to his catcher as he was, Jake Peavy returned to the mound Saturday for the first time since June 4, showing no sign of being affected by the rib he fractured that forced him onto the disabled list.
Peavy said he wasn’t bothered by all the scouts, either, and he’s one of the few players you consider believing, if for nothing else than his competitiveness.
“Whatever scouts see, they see,” Peavy said. “I love to play. I love to compete. I want to win. That's the bottom line.”
Cliches. But with Peavy, they’re digestible. The veteran settled in after giving up four runs in the first three innings Saturday, going six innings in a 10-6 win against Atlanta that included a grand slam by Alex Rios. Peavy gave up seven hits and struck out three, throwing 96 pitches, which he had to know was about as many as he would throw after a six-week absence.
Nonetheless, Peavy asked White Sox manager Robin Ventura to keep him in the game.
“I wanted to stay out there and had the bottom part of the lineup and a right-hander leading off,” Peavy said. “I tried to plead my case but it was for naught, which is fine.”
The way the game started, it didn’t look like he would have any say. Peavy gave up a two-run homer to Dan Uggla in the third after third baseman Brent Morel’s error. The next inning started with a smash that skipped over the glove of Morel and a swinging bunt single. Both runners would score, making it 4-0 Atlanta.
“I definitely felt like I got a little bit stronger [as the game went on],” Peavy said. “Probably came out of the gate too fast because I was excited. I had a little extra adrenaline. But the feel wasn't there [at first].”
Down 4-0, the Sox rebounded with nine runs in the next two innings, which included Rios’ grand slam. For the game, the Sox totaled 13 hits, including four by Alejandro De Aza and three by rookie catcher Josh Phegley, two of which were doubles.
All the offense gave Peavy his seventh win of the season. Before teams are ready to trade for him, Peavy might have to confirm he’s healthy and effective again Thursday, when he starts against Detroit’s Justin Verlander. If he does, the Sox could take advantage of a weak market of available starting pitchers and get a good return for Peavy, who has one year remaining on his contract, along with a player option for 2015.
[WATCH: Peavy doesn't want to leave Chicago]
Ventura, though, wouldn’t mind if those scouts just go away.
“I’d rather keep him,” Ventura said. “Believe me, that’s very evident for me because I know how good he is and I know it’s good for us to have him because he’s a good pitcher. But I can’t go there. It’s just more managing the game to win the game. I don’t think about all the other stuff.”
With the Sox in last place, Peavy – who has pitched in only two playoff games – would have a better chance of winning the World Series with a trade to a contender. But he signed an extension with the Sox in the offseason and sounds like he wants to stay.
“I love Chicago,” Peavy said. “And we once again made that clear this winter. I have a ton of friends here. I believe this team is capable of winning. This team, we showed you that we could last year. We just haven’t done much of that this year and that’s unfortunate. It would be a sad day to leave if that was to happen.”
Whether he gets traded to a contender or stays with the Sox, Peavy will argue with his manager when he gets taken out of games. But it’s difficult to believe he isn’t itching to do that in the postseason, and that teams won’t make a strong offer for a 32-year-old who wants nothing more than to win and only has a few more years left to do it.