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BOSTON -- For the Boston Red Sox newcomer in his first media session, Ryan Dempster was already "Demp" and John Lackey was "Lack," which suggests it shouldn't take long for Jake Peavy to become acclimated to his new team.
Sox catcher David Ross was with him for a short time in San Diego in 2005, though he never caught him in a game, only in the bullpen. Peavy remembered a 22-year-old Rule 5 outfielder named Shane Victorino spending a few months with the Padres in 2003. Juan Nieves was his bullpen coach in Chicago. Left-handed Matt Thornton was a White Sox teammate. Dempster reigned as the ace on Chicago's North Side while Peavy ruled on the South Side. And Red Sox special assignment scout Mark Wasinger signed Peavy to his first pro contract out of high school in Alabama in 1999.
|"I think I can win," Jake Peavy said. "I think I can still be a pitcher who goes out every fifth day and can give my team a chance to win.|
"Funny," Peavy said Thursday, "how your career comes full circle."
And after what he termed the "draining" experience of being the object of feverish speculation leading to the trading deadline, the 32-year-old native of Alabama said he was thrilled that the arc of his career has taken him to Boston.
"The opportunity I've been given, I can't ask for anything more," he said, "to come to a team in first place with a realistic chance this year of being a world champion, which is why we all play the game.
"To compete in the postseason would be a dream come true. I know that's what a lot of guys here expect. I expect to do it, and be a contributing factor going forward."
Peavy described the professional kinship he feels with Lackey and Dempster, two other veteran right-handers in a rotation he is scheduled to join on Saturday night, when he faces the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"You look at Ryan Dempster, look at John Lackey, even Clay [Buchholz], his potential upside is more at this point, but us three -- me, Demp and Lack -- we're at about the same point in our career," Peavy said.
"We can really help each other, as far as preparation, in-game adjustments. ... Me, [Dempster] and Lack have a lot to offer one another, with our stuff, a lot of what we do on the mound, at the same point in our career."
Peavy has made two starts since returning from a nondisplaced rib fracture that sidelined him six weeks, the cause of which he still can't explain. He was to have pitched Tuesday, a night before the trading deadline, but was scratched from that start by the White Sox.
Injuries have been a constant disruption to his career since he won the National League Cy Young Award for the San Diego Padres in 2007. He was traded once before at the trading deadline, when the Padres sent him to the White Sox in 2009, but he was able to make just three starts for Chicago that year because of an ankle injury. The White Sox had gambled that Peavy, who had strained a tendon in his right ankle while still with the Padres, would recover in time to be a factor in the race, and coincidentally, he made his first rehab start that August against Pawtucket, Boston's Triple-A team.
But he couldn't go for the White Sox until late in the season, when he won all three of his starts, the last two pitching a combined 15 scoreless innings. The White Sox, 1½ games out of the division lead at the time of the Peavy deal, finished seven games out.
The following July, he underwent surgery for a detached lat muscle at the back of his shoulder and was sidelined until May 2011. A month later, he was back on the DL with a strained groin.
Last season, when he made 32 starts and pitched 219 innings, was the first time since he won the Cy in 2007 that he was able to pitch more than 111 innings in a season.
"Over the past few years when I had my ankle injury and the lat injury, once you get labeled that you're hurt, you fight that," Peavy said. "So last year meant the world to me to throw 220 innings. So then you get off to a good start this year and miss time for something you really feel like was not baseball-related, broken ribs. Something you really couldn't pinpoint how it happened, that's tough."
Peavy tried to pitch through this spring's rib discomfort, but was rocked for 12 earned runs in a total of 6 1/3 innings in two starts, which is when an MRI revealed the fracture. He insisted he is healthy now, and Red Sox scouts who watched his two starts since he came off the DL on July 20 concur. He won both of those starts, and in his last turn, July 25 against the Tigers, pitched into the eighth inning before being lifted after a home run by Brayan Pena, the third home run of the night by Detroit but one of just four hits allowed by Peavy.
"I'm as healthy as I could be now," Peavy said. "I'm still working my way back pitch count-wise, but expect nothing more than to throw 100 or so pitches here Saturday."
Peavy was candid about the fact that he does not have the same power stuff as the pitcher who led the NL in wins, ERA and strikeouts in 2007, his Cy Young year.
"I think that's a pretty accurate description of all of us," he said. "You evolve as a pitcher. I wish I could go back -- and we've all said this at times in our career -- and understand how to prepare, how to navigate your way through a lineup a few times and get the most out of it.
"When you're young, as much as you think you know, you don't. I had the opportunity to play with Greg Maddux for a few years, to watch what he did at his age and at that stage of his career was remarkable. I saw what it took, I saw what true preparation meant.
"So I definitely think I've evolved. The stuff is not anywhere close as overpowering as it was at one point in time, but at the same time I feel like I'm as good as I was back then in different ways. My motto is, 'The things you can control.' I want to be the best, that's why winning the Gold Glove last year meant the absolute world to me because I truly want to be as good as I can possibly be at things I can control."
And if there is one thing that is within his control, it is this.
"What I can add? I think I can win," he said. "I think I can still be a pitcher who goes out every fifth day and can give my team a chance to win. I promise you this: No one expects more of me than myself, and I wouldn't be playing if I still didn't think I could be a contributing factor to this ballclub."