White Sox

Peavy's long road back to the top

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Peavy's long road back to the top

KANSAS CITY -- Jake Peavy described the week that led up to Tuesdays All-Star Game as a wild ride.

But the White Sox starting pitcher, who on Thursday lost the Final Vote contest to Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish and was a last-minute addition Sunday to the American League roster, might as well have referenced the five years in between All-Star appearances.

Since he last played in All-Star Game in San Francisco in 2007 for the San Diego Padres, Peavy has won a unanimous Cy Young award, received a contract extension for a guaranteed 56 million, been traded to the White Sox twice, including once while he was injured, and later dealt with a career-threatening shoulder injury and the long road to recovery. Not an easy load for a guy who has no problem with admitting hes an emotional guy on all fronts.

Were here and I couldnt be more excited after what weve been through, Peavy said. I cant tell you last year when I was a year out of that major surgery and trying to make it back and going out there with the stuff I had, feeling the way I had, I never would have imagined a year later Id be talking to you from the All-Star Game.

Granted, this isnt the same Jake Peavy from five years earlier.

When he received all 32 first-place Cy Young votes in 2007, Peavy was purely a stuff guy. His fastball, which averaged 92.5 mph but routinely reached 95, and his slider, accounted for more than 80 percent of his pitches.

The Peavy who is now two years removed from a detached latissimus dorsi muscle injury in his right shoulder turns to his curveball and changeup far more often. His fastball averages 90.5 mph.

Teammate Adam Dunn prefers the current version.

Hes a smarter pitcher (now), Dunn said. He had great stuff back then. Im not saying he doesnt have it now. But he never threw changeups. He never threw curveballs. Now, obviously he doesnt have 95 anymore. Hes got his 92, which is really, plenty now. Hes got a really good changeup now that hes worked on, because he had to. And his slider is still sharp and now hes throwing the curveball as well. Hes evolved into a pitcher instead of more of a thrower.

One aspect of Peavys game, which hasnt changed, nor will it, is his emotional state on the mound. Peavy has long been known for his competitive fire. Its what many consider to have helped him overcome the fact that hes not as tall and is much skinnier than many of the pitchers he competes against.

A Peavy start is normally accompanied by several scenes of the pitcher cursing himself as he yanks a slider or doesnt properly locate a fastball.

It is a show, teammate Chris Sale said. Thats him being a competitor and trying to pretty much perfect pitching. He goes out every time and tries to be his best and when hes not, hes not happy. Its fun to watch. You pick up things. It works for him and it works very well.

Peavys fiery side allowed him to return from what St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday describes as uncharted territory. Peavys shoulder surgery, to repair a muscle that had completely fallen off the bone, was the first of its kind.

Though doctors expected him to be as healthy as he would be after 18 months, Peavy wasnt certain hed ever be capable of pitching at the level that allowed him to go 92-68 with the Padres. The only thing Peavy was certain about was he would do everything he could to give himself a chance to again become one of the games top pitchers.

Holliday, who faced him in St. Louis last month, said Peavy has regained his status as an elite-level pitcher. It isnt unexpected, either, Holliday said.

For him to be back to where he is now is impressive, but not surprising, Holliday said. Ive known Jake a little bit. Im not really surprised. Hes always been an elite pitcher and hes had a couple of years with injuries, but hes back to where I expect him to be. He was nearly unhittable (then). But hes still a very good pitcher. Hes as competitive as ever and as anybody in the game. He knows how to pitch and he probably knows how to pitch a little better now than he did then.

As for the flair and competitive drive on the mound, Peavy never lost it and Dunn is certain he never will.

Someone like him, it doesnt matter, Dunn said. In 15 or 20 or 30 years from now, well be on the golf course and itll be the same thing. You dont lose that.

Peavy hasnt lost his ability to comprehend where he is, either

He was excited his stall was several feet from Dunn. After the struggles both shared in 2011, Peavy knows he and Dunn will enjoy the All-Star experience as much as any rookie or first-time competitor in the clubhouse.

After what we went through together last year its super gratifying, Peavy said. It means the world. You never take this for the granted.

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson turned 24 on Saturday and celebrated the occasion with a bang.

Anderson smashed a three-run home run in the first inning against the A's. It was actually his first swing on his birthday. Anderson took the first two pitches before launching the 1-1 pitch over the right field fence.

That home run, Anderson's 13th of the year, gave the White Sox a 5-0 lead. Things took an ugly turn later in the game with Oakland winning 7-6. Dylan Covey left in the fifth with a hip injury, which manager Rick Renteria said will be evaluated tomorrow to determine the severity of the injury.

Anderson finished 2-for-4 on his birthday. He later added a single, a stolen base and a run in the sixth inning.

Anderon's power surge this year has him on pace to blow past his 17 homers from a year ago. He is four shy of last year's total and has done so in just under half as many plate appearances.

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.