Peavy stretches into 6th; Thornton named closer

Peavy stretches into 6th; Thornton named closer
March 19, 2011, 8:33 pm
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Saturday, March 19, 2011Posted: 3:30 p.m. Updated: 7:47 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHOENIX - In spite of looking weak and tossing his initial game warmups lightly to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Jake Peavy made just one big mistake in his start Saturday's vs. the Oakland A's.

That mistake came in the third, when Ryan Sweeney coaxed the first three-ball count from Peavy (3-0) and on 3-1 clocked a two-run homer to left-center.

Peavy left the game with two outs in the sixth, trailing 3-0. He threw 83 pitches, 55 for strikes.

Sweeney had led off the game with an infield single that could well have been judged an error on shortstop Alexei Ramirez. But Peavy coaxed a 4-6-3 double play from Daric Barton and then finished the inning by retiring Josh Willingham on a pop to right.

Willingham's at-bat was delayed when first base umpire Bill Miller doubled over as if in danger of becoming ill. Perhaps he caught the same flu bug Peavy has been battling for the past few days.

Peavy looked stronger in the second, getting DH Hideki Matsui to ground out to first. Lastings Milledge got a bad jump on a fly to right, but recovered enough to make a diving catch.

Peavy's best exchange came vs. sixth batter Mark Ellis, a three-pitch strikeout. Peavy appeared to throw his first curve and slider for a strike.

Prior to Sweeney's clout to give Oakland a 2-0 lead, Kevin Kouzmanoff grounded to first, Landon Powell singled sharply to right-center, and Eric Sogard flied to center. The third ended with Barton grounding out to first.

In the fourth, Peavy got Willingham to fly out to center after the left fielder battled hard. Then the righthander surrendered three singles in the next four hitters, with Kouzmanoff tapping home a run with a first-pitch safety to center to push the Oakland lead to three.

That knock pushed reliever Sergio Santos out of the dugout to begin warmng up. Peavy escaped the fourth after coaxing a flyout from Powell.

The hurler trotted back out for the fifth and retired the A's in order, on three fly outs. His last three batters came in the sixth, as Peavy surrendered a single to Willingham, then finished strong despite pitching on fumes, punching out Conor Jackson and Matsui on what the pitcher described as "a major league curveball."

Peavy was in line for the loss after giving up seven hits and three earned runs, while striking out three and walking none.

The hurler admitted he was "aching all over" after the outing and said he felt his velocity was higher in this start and he got stronger as the day went on.

Peavy was optimistic in looking toward the future, discussing his plans to go home and attempt to eat (he hasn't kept any food down for two days), sleep 10-12 hours and will be shooting for a "a real major-league start" (around 100 pitches) his next outing, Thursday night against the Cubs.
Guillen names Thornton closer

After his Chicago White Sox dropped their rematch with the Oakland As in Phoenix, manager Ozzie Guillen named lefthander Matt Thornton as his closer.

I talked to Thornton, Guillen said. I said he would get the chance to be the closer A good percent of the time, he will be the guy Matt Thornton earned it. We have a lot of confidence in him. He is the guy who can do the job better.

Thornton, who had eight saves in 10 chances in 2010 but was perfect as the teams de facto closer while Bobby Jenks was sidelined after Sept. 3, was in competition with rookie Chris Sale for the job. Sale has struggled with his location so far in Cactus League play; while he has just two walks this spring, his ERA is 6.48 and batters are hitting .351 against him.

Sale, we would have to put a lot of things on his shoulders, Guillen said. This kid pitched well last season, but we would put a lot of pressure on him to be the closer.

Although Guillen has promised significant roster or lineup decisions for a few days now, he had no other news beyond naming his closer.
Fighting for the final spots
The manager did confirm that Mark Teahens offensive outburst this spring has secured his place on the roster, likely playing both third base and the outfield. Guillen indicated he would be getting Teahen would get some opportunities to be in the outfield before we break camp.

Reliever Gregory Infante had a poor outing, surrendering five earned runs in a ruinous eighth inning and pushing his spring ERA to 11.57, Guillen remained supportive, saying, He pitched well, I dont think he should feel bad. That happens to everybody in spring. I like the way he throws the ball. Everybody has a bad game.

Still, Infante has likely lost his hold on a possible last man in the bullpen position, a competition that is whittling down to Phil Humber, Josh Kinney, and Jeffrey Marquez.

In the three-way battle for the last spot on the bench, Lastings Milledge continued tightening his grip on the spot, going 1-3 with an RBI, a walk and a strikeout. He turned on the afterburners to cut off a potential double into the gap, but also got a poor jump on a flyball, forcing a diving catch, and was thrown out at third on a terrific Brent Lillibridge bunt because he failed to slide. Lillibridge executed that terrific bunt and played a solid center field, but was otherwise 1-4, leaving five men on base. Alejandro De Aza was 0-1 as a pinch-hitter, but his flyout was a ball that was drilled to left.

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