PEORIA, Ariz. -- Next up for San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy is a start for the United States in its World Baseball Classic opener against Canada on Saturday.
Peavy warmed up for the marquee assignment with three crisp, scoreless innings in a 4-2 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday."I feel prepared that I can go up there and throw all my pitches with maybe a little more intensity than there was today and be able to get outs and be productive for Team USA and still be working toward my eventual progress to start opening day," Peavy said after allowing only a leadoff single to Ryan Theriot while facing the minimum nine batters. He threw 33 pitches.Peavy said it's a huge honor to be picked to pitch for Team USA and to draw the opening start."It's exciting. I got to start the first game of the '06 WBC for Team USA against Mexico and having a chance to repeat that here in '09, starting the first game, it means a lot," said Peavy, the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner. "I'm looking forward to getting back out there and helping Team USA and hopefully working toward a better outcome."Three years ago, a United States team loaded with All-Stars was eliminated in the second round, losing to South Korea and then Mexico.Peavy knows that a lot is going to change Saturday in Toronto compared to facing a Cubs team that left several starters in Mesa."Russell Martin, Justin Morneau, Jason Bay, Matt Stairs; a lot of professional hitters in there, a lot of power," he said, mentioning Canada's big stars. "You better have your game face on because those guys will be grinding out at-bats. Those guys will be trying to get hits, they'll be trying to do damage and they're certainly capable of that."This is going to be fun," he added. "I'm telling you, when you're playing for your country, that you have roots in, your heritage, it's a special feeling. You play hard. You have so much pride, and winning and losing, I'm telling you, when we lost and went home, there were guys that were teary-eyed in the clubhouse. It's that emotional."Padres manager Bud Black said Peavy's performance set up him nicely going into the WBC."I think it's great. It's a feather in Jake's cap, it's good for the Padres," Black said of his ace getting the first start. "He's no doubt one of the best pitchers in the game."The Cubs were interested in obtaining Peavy during the offseason, when the Padres tried to move their ace in an attempt to trim payroll due in large part to owner John Moores' difficult divorce. Peavy, who had a full no-trade clause, told the Padres he was interested in going to the Cubs.The Cubs pulled out of talks at the winter meetings. The Braves also had been interested before shifting their focus elsewhere.Peavy said facing the Cubs didn't matter."I feel like I'm a professional and I had to go out and get my work done today. It's spring training. Nothing gets you too riled up. No emotions, nothing like that," he said.Cubs starter Ryan Dempster allowed three unearned runs in two innings. He yielded two hits, walked one and struck out one."He threw the ball well," manager Lou Piniella said. "Results weren't good, but we were pleased with the way he threw it."
Padres RHP Mark Prior said he felt good Sunday, a day after his most recent bullpen session. Trying to rebound from shoulder surgery in June, Prior said he threw 55-60 pitches, "so obviously that's a good sign for endurance. It's coming. I think yesterday was probably one of the first days where I felt, 'OK, things are starting to kind of round into form a little bit,' so that was nice." Prior threw about six curveballs. "I'm feeling comfortable enough to throw that because obviously it takes some arm speed to throw the curveball," said Prior, who hasn't pitched in the big leagues since Aug. 10, 2006, with the Cubs. Black said it was a good sign that Prior is throwing breaking balls. "That'd be great if he could come back and be able to jump into our rotation," Black said. ... If Mexico advances to the second round of the WBC, Padres Adrian Gonzalez, Edgar Gonzalez and Scott Hairston will be playing in their home ballpark, Petco Park. As nice as that would be, "for me, it's more like eventually you want to get to L.A. because that's the semis and the finals," Adrian Gonzalez said. ... Hairston is playing for Mexico because his mother, Esperanza, was born and raised there. "My mom's really happy. She's called everybody in Mexico, all my relatives, all my family that lives there," he said. Hairston said he'll be teammates for the first time with older brother Jerry, an outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds. "It'll be a lot of fun. I can't wait," he said. ... Cubs OF Milton Bradley took batting practice in Mesa. He's had only one at-bat this spring, leaving Thursday's game with tightness in his left thigh.