Kyle Terada, US PRESSWIRE
On Wednesday night, Jake Peavy will start his first regular season major league game since having his latissimus dorsi muscle detach from the bone. Just returning at all from this injury was a fairly unprecedented feat in the baseball world. When parts of your body snaps out of place, speculation on whether you'll continue as a professional athlete tends to run rampant.
Speculating about the mental state of athletes is pretty much a cardinal sin for a sports blogger, but it's hard to imagine that he didn't contemplate the end of his career at some point during his recovery. Until he proves that he can consistently perform at a competitive level again, there's no guarantee that this isn't the epilogue of his life in baseball anyway. With all the uncertainty involved, this might be the ideal scenario for Jake to return.
While the win-loss record may sharply indicate otherwise, Jake Peavy returns as a luxury item for the White Sox rotation. The South Siders rode a streak of 7 straight quality starts into John Danks' blowup Tuesday night, and scrap-heap space-filler Phil Humber has been leading the way with a 2.97 ERA and 3.31 FIP through 39.1 IP over 6 starts. His strikeout rate doesn't suggest that the Sox have found Sandy Koufax's long lost grandson, but fifth starters can get a lot worse.
Peavy on the other hand, has the potential to be the greatest 5th starter of all time (not a Hall of Fame credential, but nice), but Humber's presence means he doesn't need to be rushed into it. He can be rested or skipped for ineffectiveness without the starting pitching suffering, and that's the worst-case scenario. With 5 capable hurlers in line, there'll be no urge to overextend Jake in order to push him to his previous levels, and really none of the desperation that seemed to mark his accelerated rehab effort. In almost any case, Peavy represents a bolstering of the White Sox' impressive rotational depth, which they have realized is their greatest strength.
This is clearly indicated by the stated intention for the Sox to operate with a 6-man rotation for the next three weeks. Peavy's certainly an addition, but the Sox would just as soon make sure they don't ruin a good thing. Few teams--and certainly no one in this crap division--can flaunt that type of versatility with their starters without marked declines in performances like the Sox could be able to.
Every update with Peavy during his recovery period has been marked by tension. Continuous concern existed over when the next flare-up would take place, and rob the Sox of their #1 starter for another year. Now, as Jake finally returns, his success is of as little importance as the performance of pitcher being paid $15MM can conceivably be.
After all the travails involved in trading for him, the boatload of players the Sox shipped to San Diego, his extended absences, and his stretches of inadequacy, we've finally reached a point where Jake Peavy can only help us.