Commentary

Peavy's ho-hum debut might be trigger

White Sox's other ace wild in loss to Indians but is not too concerned about it

Updated: April 8, 2010, 12:05 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

It was cold everywhere in Chicago on Wednesday night, except perhaps under Jake Peavy's black White Sox hat.

It was the kind of soggy early spring night that makes you wish you lived in, say, San Diego. But I bet if you cracked an egg on Peavy's forehead, especially during the fourth inning, it would have been like that old anti-drug commercial.

"This is your brain on hit batsmen and broken-bat singles."

[+] EnlargeJake Peavy
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireJake Peavy needed 106 pitches to get through five innings on Wednesday against the Indians.

Heck, if you put a solar panel on Peavy's forehead most games, you could power the exploding scoreboard and have enough juice to light up half of the Loop. He's kind of intense. Not in a Carlos Zambrano kill-the-dugout kind of way, or a Carlos Quentin kill-your-wrist kind of way, but it's safe to say he expects a lot out of himself every pitch.

Peavy couldn't have been pleased with himself after giving up three runs in the fourth inning to fritter away a 3-0 lead. Cleveland scored one in the seventh and one on the ninth to win 5-3.

Peavy's problem was that he was wild Tuesday -- not Jake Westbrook wild, but certainly not effective. He walked two and hit two and threw 106 pitches to get through five innings.

"Obviously Jake wasn't at the top of his game," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He was kind of wild a little bit."

Did the weather affect the San Diego, by way of Alabama, émigré?

"He seems so amped up and so red hot out there, I don't know if it really affects him," Paul Konerko said.

To make matters worse, on a night where the first-pitch temperature was 43 degrees with a strong wind, there was no hot water in the shower after the game.

"I'm cold, we got no hot water here," Peavy said, smiling as he put on a jacket at his locker. [Guillen made fun of his spoiled American players complaining about cold showers. "Let them play in Venezuela," he joked. "I'm going to Twitter that."]

The weather wasn't a factor, Peavy said. A little chill in the air doesn't make you hit a guy with two strikes.

"I don't think so," he said. "I felt good as I warmed up. Weather was no issue tonight at all."

It was just one of those nights, Peavy said, where he didn't have his command. Thankfully few saw it in person. Only 19,514 were announced as attendees to Peavy's 2010 debut.

Peavy started three times for the Sox last season, after rehabbing his ankle injury that robbed him of most of 2009, and won all three, and looked pretty good doing it. But it was during September, after the Sox's season faded to black. If an ace wins and no one's paying attention, did it really happen?

Then again, did this one? It's April, right? Not to Peavy. He wasn't writing this game off as just a throwaway, but he said he won't dwell on it either. He gave up three runs on seven hits in his five innings, while striking out five. He didn't get the loss, and his teammates could have staked him to a bigger lead off Fausto Carmona, who was wild early, walking six.

Konerko drove in all three runs with a sacrifice fly in the first and a two-run homer in the third. The only other Sox player to get a hit was A.J. Pierzynski. Juan Pierre walked to start the bottom of the first and stole two bases, scoring on Konerko's flyball, but that was all the Ozzieball we got for one night.

But the story of the day wasn't the Sox's flagging offense. It was Peavy.

"You want to win on your fifth day," Peavy said. "When I came out of the game, we had that chance. On the bright side of things, you can say you gave your team that chance. But that's not acceptable in my book. When you go up 3-0, I expect to hold on to that. I don't care what team, what situation, what happened. You got to hold on to that. I didn't do it tonight."

In fact, he tried to come out for the sixth after throwing 106 pitches. He had 91 through four innings.

"Oh yeah, I still feel good," he said. "I feel fine. I think it was a better situation for Randy [Williams] right there, and me 100 pitches into the night. But I still felt good."

Peavy's real introduction to Chicago came and went with little fanfare. There is no Peavy-meter in the local papers. No excessive buildup.

Peavy, a bulldog and a perfectionist, to use two baseball clichés, looks like he's trying to find himself. He had pretty good April numbers -- a 3.22 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 36 April starts -- coming in, to go with a 15-10 record and 229 strikeouts in 232 innings.

He had a slow start last year, with a 5.74 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in April, going 2-3 for the Padres. In 2008, he was 3-1, with a spotless start in March and a 2.50 ERA in April. He was good early in 2007 too, but had a 5.17 ERA in 2006.

If a slow spring and a so-so first start are any indication, Peavy might need some time to get in his typical form. And that's OK.

The good news is Peavy got good infield defense, a major problem last year, with Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham and Mark Teahen all making stellar plays. Alex Rios showed his speed in center and Pierre nearly made a nifty sliding catch. On another night, this would be a win.

Peavy wasn't sharp from the beginning. Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a single up the middle. Peavy gave up a baserunner in every inning but got out of trouble in the first three. In the fourth, Jhonny Peralta led off with a double and Matt LaPorta reached on a dying single that Pierre nearly caught.

Peavy struck out Luis Valbuena but the big play, the turning point, was him hitting Mike Redmond on a 1-2 pitch to load the bases.

"He wasn't the same after that," Guillen said.

"I didn't have great command of anything, by any means, but I still felt pretty good," Peavy said. "That one inning just got away from us a little. They didn't hit the ball hard. Hitting Redmond there really hurt us. It was obvious what he was trying to do. He's not getting out of the way there. He's a veteran guy."

Grady Sizemore tied the game with a two-run double to right, and Peavy managed to get out of the inning and pitch a scoreless fifth.

It's a good thing the Sox went with Mark Buehrle to start the opener. Peavy got his bad start out of the way. And he's got a bad taste in his mouth now, which may very well be bad news for Toronto in five days.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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