GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Once upon a time, Jake Peavy was the best pitcher in the National League. Take a look at his trophy case. He has the 2007 Cy Young Award to prove it.
For the last four seasons, Peavy has tried to get back to that pitcher who left the mound in Colorado on October 1st of that year, finishing his season with a career-best 19-6 record, a career-high 240 strikeouts and a career-low 2.54 ERA.
It hasnt been easy -- for Peavy or the White Sox.
Not by a long shot.
Obviously it hasnt been any fun for me, Peavy said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. Its been painful, both physically and emotionally just not being able to be who you know you have been in the past, and who you were traded for. There was no lack of effort. It just wasnt meant to be.
When Kenny Williams acquired Peavy from the Padres on July 31, 2009 for Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Dexter Carter and Adam Russell he was already dealing with an ankle injury. He suffered a strained groin with the White Sox in 2011, but that was a mere paper cut compared to the detached latissmus dorsi tendon that literally tore off the bone in Peavys throwing shoulder in a game against the Angels in 2010.
Peavy was told that his career could be over. A few years before, it likely would have been.
He underwent a rare surgery at Rush University Medical Center to reattach the tendon to the bone. Former major league pitcher Tommy John once had an experimental surgery named after him. If successful, Peavy could be next.
Now 19 months removed from the operation, Peavy is here at spring training, feeling his best from head-to-toe since the White Sox traded for him. It feels amazing actually, Peavy said.
His shoulder is finally healthy, but theres still some mystery. How healthy is it? Neither Jake nor his doctors truly have the answer.
I just dont know. I just dont know what to tell you, Peavy said. I can tell you that Im 19 months out of major surgery that nobody else has had, that nobody else has come back from. So theres no gameplan. Theres no, Hey look at this guy, and this is what he did after x months. The surgeons have just said once youre 18 months, a year and a half out of surgery, youre not going to get any better. About what you have is what you have.
What were going to be working with and what youre going to see is what youre going to get. Is that going to be what I was a few years ago? I certainly hope so. Ive certainly done everything I can possibly do physically to get back to feel the way I did back then. Is my body capable of doing that? I dont know. I can promise you Im going to find out and Im going to leave it all between the white lines and it starts here at spring training.
No one will come out and say that Peavy will be able to become a Cy Young-caliber pitcher again. The one exception might be Peavy.
I believe I can. I really do. If I didnt believe it, I wouldnt be here, he said.
For the first time since the White Sox moved their spring training facility to Glendale in 2009, Ozzie Guillen isnt here. Listen carefully, and you can hear his memorable rants echoing off the walls.
Guillens long-standing feud with Williams reached the point where somebody had to leave. It ended up being Guillen.
I was only here for a few years, and I know theres been plenty of articles and stuff written, and I think we all can agree that it had run its course, Peavy said about the GuillenWilliams saga.
Meanwhile, tension between Guillen and Peavy developed at the end of last season and into the winter when both took verbal shots at each other in the media about which one of them quit on the team following Guillens exit for Miami with two games left in the season.
Me and Ozzie ended the season on a little bit different terms, Peavy said. He thought I quit on him. There was no quit in me at all. It was just a perfect way to end the season. Numbers-wise we could not make the playoffs. I was heavily medicated and my arm, not throwing between starts, I wasnt going to do that for two more starts. Why? We had Dylan Axelrod and some other kids that were looking for an audition. It was a perfect storm. Me, Kenny, Coop, Herm Schneider, were all on the same page. Ozzie saw things a little different, and said his mind which is fine. He wasnt crazy happy with me.
But the two have since patched things up.
I love Ozzie. I was just laughing and was never meaning to create no firestorm. I love Ozzie, his boys. Ozzie was good to me, Peavy said.
However, a 79-83 record last season wasnt good for the White Sox, picked by many to win the division. As the losses piled up and the frustrations mounted, not everyone got along. Its not the first time its happened. It wont be the last.
You can put a bunch of criminals in that clubhouse, but if those criminals go out and win 105 games, everybody would be fine with it and theyll get along. Theyd be like brothers, Peavy said. You put a bunch of pastors in that room in there and lose 100 games, and theyll be cussing. Baseball takes a mental and physical toll. Thats why it takes special people to play it and thick skin."
Peavy has certainly needed that.
Its been painful, but like I said, you live and you learn, he said. But Ive lived through a lot the last two years and I certainly took some of those healthy years for granted, but I promise you...never again.