Jake Peavy knows what it's like to go through grueling rehab sessions. He knows what it's like to be frustrated with not being healthy. And he knows what it's like to wonder if he's lost his ability to pitch in the majors.
Kerry Wood went through many of the same tribulations during his career, which began in 1998 and will come to a close this weekend at Wrigley Field. Through all the injuries, surgeries and simulated games, Wood amassed a 3.67 ERA and 1,581 strikeouts in 1,379 23 innings.
"At the end of the day, when you come back from those injuries and you go through what he had to go through, it not only takes a huge physical toll, there's a whole mental side of that where you say 'gosh, do I have it left in me to go through every bit of this rehab and push myself the way that I used to to get back,'" Peavy said prior to Friday's BP Crosstown Cup opener.
"And obviously, the older you get, the more your body slows down. Good for him to come to that conclusion -- it's sad, but at the same time it's a day that needs to be looked on as a happy day and look back at the wonderful career he did have."
Peavy's in his 11th season in the majors, but he's only had to battle injury issues for the last five or so years. Wood underwent Tommy John surgery in 1999 and has been locked in what seemed like a constant battle with his body ever since. So for him to push through and pitch nearly a decade and a half in the majors is something Peavy truly respects.
"I can promise you, as a guy who's been through some major injuries over the last few years, there's nothing easy about what he's done and the mental grind and toll that takes on you," Peavy said. "I can understand him getting to this point where he's saying you know what, it's been a good run but it's that time."
Peavy turns 31 at the end of May, and he's not nearing that time. He's pitching better than he ever has in a White Sox uniform, and he'll be a free agent at the end of the season if the Sox -- or, as he'll admit, whatever team may trade for him this summer -- decline his 22 million option for 2013. Peavy's been on teams that have won division championships in 2005 and 2006, and he's felt the heartbreak of narrowly missing the postseason in 2007. He won a Cy Young, has made two All-Star teams and was the first to tackle Philip Humber after his perfect game, so he knows a little about personal accomplishments, too.
But despite all that, he's still in awe of Wood's 20-strikeout game.
"When you watch that game and watch what he did to a big league lineup -- I'm not taking anything away from any of these games -- you can go watch Phil's perfect game and Mark Buehrle's perfect game and there's really, please don't take this the wrong way, not a comparison to what he did in terms of the domination and the sheer fact of 'I am so much better than you today,'" Peavy said. "That's incredible."
Peavy even admits he's gone back and watched Wood's 20-strikeout game three or four times, just to admire how dominant the then-rookie was that day against Houston.
"For big-league players to not be able to hit the baseball at all, it goes down as one of those games that has to be one of the best ever pitched in the major leagues," he opined.
While Peavy is seeing renewed success as a starting pitcher this season, he's previously intimated that a bullpen role could be in his future if he can't cut it in the rotation. That's a switch Wood made with a high level of success in 2005 before permanently moving to a relief role in 2007 -- the same year Peavy won his Cy Young.
Peavy admired Wood as a young pitcher with San Diego a decade ago. And while both pitchers are in their 30's, it sounds like Peavy still looks up to the now-retiring Cubs hurler.
"He was a guy you always looked up to and wanted to be like, because of how dominant he was as a starter and in the bullpen," Peavy said. "At the end of the day, when I think about him just persevering, being the last couple of years he's had a lot of years like I've had as far as battling back and trying to get back to a certain level of play. In my book, that is to be applauded, to come back time and time again and when he did come back, do well and be an integral part of the team."
So as Wood rides into the sunset, Peavy's going to be right there to send him off.
"I wish him all the best in retirement and applaud him on a wonderful career."