ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Talk about bending over backwards. Following the 10 months of blood, sweat and tears that Jake Peavy put into one of the most impressive comebacks of our time, now the White Sox have become contortionists.
They're stretching their rotation to squeeze six into a space normally reserved for five.
What comes out of this, on the other side, could be memorable.
It's guaranteed to be interesting.
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"That's just crazy," ace Mark Buehrle said of the Sox morphing into a six-man rotation until further notice. "I've never heard of that before."
Figuring that the jumble is going to turn most of them into once-a-week starters, Buehrle chuckled.
"I'll take Fridays," he volunteered.
Which maybe leaves Wednesdays to ... hmmm. A blast from the past who was last heard from last July 6, when he walked off the mound in Chicago against these same Angels, right arm dangling gruesomely by his side.
"Oh my God, the way he walked off the mound that day, you knew it was serious," Angels manager Mike Scioscia recalled.
Ten months later, Peavy took his first steps back in a six-inning starter's kit. He threw 87 pitches, 64 strikes. Left trailing 4-1 in an eventual 6-4 Sox win, but given a couple of defensive plays that maybe could have been made -- Juan Pierre in left, Alexei Ramirez at short -- that easily could have been different.
And to anyone wondering whether all of this upheaval to accommodate the 2007 NL Cy Young winner will be worth it, the early verdict was ...
"Best I've felt in a Chicago uniform," Peavy said.
"Hopefully, this will be a [launching pad] for starts to come," said Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who added that, after the first inning, Peavy was "outstanding."
He threw fastballs early, then mixed in breaking stuff later. One difference, his normally dominating slider was his third-best pitch, after the fastball and changeup.
"Hopefully, it becomes a little tighter," Peavy said.
Indications are, it will. This is a guy who wasn't even supposed to be back until June. When he walked off that mound last July, his latissimus dorsi muscle was completely detached from the bone in his right shoulder. Doctors would tell him that the only similar injuries they knew of in baseball were to Kerry Wood and Flash Gordon. And neither of those was a complete tear.
Where Peavy was over the past 10 months, from injury to his July 14 surgery to playing catch on Christmas Day to keep the arm loose to spring training and beyond, was uncharted waters. Foreign territory. Take your pick.
|Ozzie Guillen has room for a sixth arm in the rotation with Peavy back. (US Presswire)|
As Guillen said, the Sox aren't going to allow him to throw 120 pitches ... but they're not going to talk to him in the dugout after each inning to take his temperature, either.
"That would be annoying," Guillen said.
As it was, Peavy wanted to work another inning on Wednesday, wanted to push it into the seventh, but in Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper, he was stonewalled.
They've been so impressed by the way he's worked to return. Told that scar tissue could become one of his biggest obstacles in his recovery, Peavy hired a massage therapist -- full-time. He's been flying all over the country on minor-league rehabilitation assignments since spring training ended, pitching in Birmingham, Ala., on April 18, in Toledo, Ohio, on May 5. ...
"If it was me, I'd say, 'Bull crap, I'm not flying all over the United States. If you want me to pitch, pay me,'" Guillen joked. "He did everything the doctor said, everything the general manager said, everything the pitching coach said.
"That's why I have so much respect for him, more than anyone else."
His latest jolt came in Birmingham on April 18, when he lasted only 15 pitches before having to leave the game because he felt something bad.
"Scared to death," Peavy said.
Turned out, it was only scar tissue breaking up.
Since then, he's felt even better, "freer."
Guillen said Wednesday that Peavy was better than in spring training.
"Today, I see the ball coming out of his hand better, a lot better," Guillen said. "His location is better. I like what I see."
Peavy's fastball mostly sat in the 90-, 91-MPH range against the Angels. He kicked a couple up to 93.
"I hope in July the 91, 92 turns into what it used to be, 93, 94," Peavy said, and given that doctors have been telling him all along that it would be 12 months until he could expect to be fully recovered, that's not an unreasonable expectation.
"If he does what Jake Peavy is used to doing, it will be a huge boost for us," Buehrle said. "I don't know if his numbers will be Cy Young numbers from the get-go, but if he can give us innings. ..."
Whatever he gives them, Buehrle and his mates are willing to try this six-man thing, taking the gamble of what Peavy eventually will give them.
The risk/reward ratio under Cooper is sound: Since he took over as pitching coach in 2003, the Sox have more quality starts than any other team in the majors.
Given that Cleveland is in full roar and Detroit has won eight of its past nine, the Sox need to play all of the angles. Including Peavy.
"Our best chance," Cooper said, "is if our starting pitchers do what they can do.
"It always comes down to that."