Peavy says pressure got to White Sox

Peavy says pressure got to White Sox
January 29, 2013, 10:45 am
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Despite all the days they were in first place in 2012, what everyone will remember most about the Chicago White Sox last season was their September collapse, when they went 4-11 in the final 15 games.
Their self-destruction earned them a seat on the couch for the playoffs--as well as a thank you card from the Detroit Tigers, who ended up winning the Central Division by three games.

What happened down the stretch?

Jake Peavy knows. It was the pressure.

Did it get to them?

“There's no doubt,” Peavy said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. “I think you could sense over the last few months that we weren't playing the best in the world, and you expected at that point in time that when you're in first place going into September you can't play with this, ‘We've got nothing to lose attitude.’ We do. We've got everything to lose, and that pressure takes that freeness away from you when you're expected to perform. I think us as a whole, I think we all have to take responsibility. It just didn't work out.”

You can point to the White Sox 6-12 record against the Tigers and Royals as a main reason for their demise. Both opponents consistently put the heat on the White Sox, and Robin Ventura’s team kept flaming out.

They had a roster filled with post-season veterans like Peavy, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and Kevin Youkilis, but also many rookies and pennant race novices who were sniffing the playoffs for the very first time -- and it showed in the results.

“I think you saw the inexperience. I thought you saw a team that had been there in Detroit catching us, and a team trying to get there with a lot of new faces and a lot of meshing to do,” Peavy said. “I think you saw that when things got on the line and we were the team to beat there, being in first place down the stretch and that pressure, you feel the immaturity as a club as a whole. I’m not just saying the young guys. I’m talking about myself, the Adam Dunn’s, the Paul Konerko’s. That’s our job to keep everyone calm and keep us holding on.”

Nothing can prepare you for those pressure-packed games but actually playing in them; to feel the emotions, to celebrate the wins, or in the White Sox case -- to stomach the losses.

“People talk about how you learn more in defeat than you do in winning. That's never more true than our case. That learning experience for every one one of us personally is invaluable,” Peavy said. “There will be a bigger hunger, a bigger desire going into this year and getting into that situation again. There will be more of a peace and more of a ‘I've been there and I know what it takes to get this thing done.’”

When Jake takes the field for his first start in 2013, someone familiar with his thinking truly won’t believe it.

He was convinced this wouldn’t happen. He was sure he’d be in retirement by then.

Who had these thoughts?

Peavy did.

“I really felt like last year was going to be it for me,” Peavy revealed.

Going into the 2012 season, Peavy was almost two years removed from experimental surgery that reattached a tendon to his pitching shoulder. There was progress, but he was nowhere close to the same pitcher he was in 2007 when he won the Cy Young Award.  

In 2010, he went 7-6 with a 4.63 ERA. In 2011, the results were a tick worse: 7-7 with a 4.92 ERA.

So when Peavy arrived in Arizona for spring training last year, he was prepared for it to be his final season. He questioned whether he’d ever be able to dominate again, and he certainly never thought he’d be in a position to receive the 2-year, $29 million contract he signed with the White Sox last October.

“No, I didn't. I can honestly tell you that I didn't,” Peavy said. “I'm so thankful and so blessed to be sitting here today, but I swear to you that when I had that first surgery of that kind -- experimental, ground-breaking stuff -- no one really knew what to expect. Then trying to come back in the latter part of 2011 and just not feeling anywhere close to how I felt in previous years, I really felt like last year was going to be it.”

But to Peavy’s surprise, he was on the verge of a major breakthrough. His shoulder was fully healed. His body was finally in sync. He ranked in the top 10 in the American League in strikeouts and ERA. Even more impressive: he pitched 219 innings, fifth most in the A-L and his highest total since winning the Cy Young Award.

“I was going to grind it out and make sure there was no leaf left unturned. That I can do all that I could do,” Peavy said. “Fortunately, things turned last winter and I was able to have that kind of year. I feel so blessed because I do love the game of baseball, and I do love getting to play, and I hope to play as long as I can.”

A free agent after last season, Peavy could have tested the open market, and probably would have collected a whole lot more than the 2-year, $29 million deal he received from the White Sox. Zack Greinke signed a 6-year, $147 million contract, Anibal Sanchez got 5 years, $80 million, Edwin Jackson 4 years, $52 million.

Peavy has no regrets.

“I was excited we could do something that worked for both sides. [$29 million] was a fair number. When both sides give a little bit, I think it works out well. You saw all the free agent contracts this winter. We knew that going in. Baseball is in a very good state financially and we’re excited. But I wasn’t after that.”

What Peavy wanted was another chance with the White Sox, a team he feels is ready to take the next step.

“I found a home here and it’s a place I’m comfortable. It’s something where I feel I still have more to give to the franchise and to my teammates. I don’t feel like I owed the White Sox anything, but I do feel like for me personally and team-wise there's unfinished business here.”

Watch Chuck Garfien's interview with Jake Peavy on SportsNet Central tonight at 6:30pm, 10:00pm and 12:00am.