TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jake Peavy said he felt "relieved'' and "pleased'' after two pain-free, hitless innings against the Angels. So we can only imagine how White Sox general manager Ken Williams, the one who took the $18-million-a-year gamble on Peavy, felt. Probably almost exactly the same.
Everything in the postgame press gathering with Peavy after his efficient, impressive performance was about "we.'' As in "we detached'' a tendon from the bone, and "we missed a few barrels.'' That's probably just part of his good ol' boy way of speaking. But he might as well mean "we.'' As in him and Williams. Because they are in this together.
Williams has made more trades than any other current major league general manager (it's not even close -- Billy Beane is in second place for trades) but no other deal came with the risk that acquiring Peavy from the Padres at the trade deadline in 2009 did. Williams gave up four prospects for the pitcher he coveted. But more to the point, Williams also committed to a contract that pays the right-hander Peavy $18 million annually. That deal was once considered a hometown discount, but not by the time it became Chicago's.
Folks familiar with that decision say it was almost all Williams. They say that claiming Alex Rios was more of a consensus effort even though Williams loved Rios more than anyone. The Peavy deal was surely Williams' biggest gamble. One person familiar with the White Sox said he "wasn't quite sure'' how Williams got team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to sign off on that risky deal, but he obviously did. Somehow, some way.
Williams' acquisition of Rios looks like a winner after his performance last year (Rios hit .284 in 2010 with 21 HRs and 88 RBIs), and a majority of Williams' deals have turned out positively for the White Sox over the years. Even if some sabremetricians don't seem to appreciate him, he is one of the game's better GMs. All you have to do is look at the record. Nonetheless, the Peavy deal still looks like a gamble today.
Though, maybe a tiny bit less so after he pitched to the minimum six Angels in his two innings, hitting 90-92 mph on the gun consistently before almost all the White Sox brass, including co-owner Eddie Einhorn, Williams, assistant GM Rick Hahn and others. It's no surprise they all attended, as this is the biggest story of spring for them, bigger than new kid Adam Dunn and his $56-million contract, or anything else.
"I'm very pleasantly surprised. He's ready. But we've got to take one step at a time,'' White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of Peavy making the opening day roster. "That's the goal. But is it happening? I don't know.''
The Peavy trade was risky even by Williams' standards. While Peavy was a star in San Diego (notching a 92-68 record and a 3.29 ERA over eight seasons), Williams was taking him out of the National League and away from PETCO Park, and also hoping that he would remain healthy. Peavy still is only 29, and he is tremendously talented, but this injury is a new one in baseball (Peavy said he understands Kerry Wood and Tom Gordon had partial tears of the lat from the bone but not complete tears, as he has).
But if Peavy can be anything close to the guy who won the 2007 Cy Young Award for the Padres, the White Sox may have the best pitching rotation in the American League. If he can just be a semblance of himself, that also may be true. (Not that spring training measures much, but so far the White Sox starters have combined for 10 hitless innings out of 10.)
"I'm relieved. I'm pleased. It was a good day, a step in the right direction'' Peavy said after striking out two and walking one over his two innings. Peavy doesn't want to overplay the step, but it was a big one -- for him, the Williams and the White Sox.
The plan is for him to pitch again Wednesday. He has told some friends he hopes to pitch in a regular season game sometime before May 1, or even earlier than that. But even if it's just after that, he is well ahead of a schedule mapped out by his surgeon, Anthony Romeo of Chicago. Peavy is the only pitcher known to have torn his lat muscle completely off the bone, an injury suffered last summer while pitching against these Angels and compensating for a foot injury. "I've got a great rotator cuff, I've got a great labrum. I just did something very freaky,'' Peavy said.
Peavy said Romeo stitched it up and kept it together with "four anchors'' though he admitted he isn't exactly sure what the anchors refer to (certainly not the four pitchers already solidly in the Sox rotation -- Mark Buehrle, Jon Danks, Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson -- though they are anchors). Peavy worked this winter in San Diego in with young phenom Stephen Strasburg, who is trying to return after Tommy John surgery, and Peavy said "I wish I could have had Tommy John.'' That's because it's so common, and comes complete with a set comeback schedule. He is dealing with the unknown, which is scary. "There certainly can be some doubts creeping in your head,'' Peavy said.
Some of those doubts may be allayed after his fantastic yet brief outing Friday. But there is still talk around camp of a possible setback here or there, which is why he's still looking at a possible May 1 return, despite a great initial start. All the time, he -- and undoubtedly Williams -- will wait and hope he can be Peavy again. "I haven't been doing in Chicago what I can be doing,'' Peavy said. He thinks and hope that time may come before long. "I feel very blessed to probably have that opportunity.''