Peavy a welcome sight on Opening Day
Friars' season commences with righty on hill for fourth time
SAN DIEGO -- Jake Peavy will make his fourth Opening Day start for the Padres against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday at PETCO Park, though for a spell of the offseason it appeared that this particular start, in a Padres uniform, might not have happened.
Following an offseason that saw the only organization the 27-year-old has ever played for come close -- or not close, depending on what you heard or read -- to dealing him to first the Atlanta Braves and later the Chicago Cubs, Peavy confirmed at his arrival in Spring Training what many figured all along.
That he was surprised to still be a Padre.
"I prepared myself that I was going to be traded. Everyone in their right mind thought I would be somewhere else," Peavy said.
Instead, Peavy is still a Padre and will be on the mound for the regular-season opener Monday against the Dodgers, a team he's become very familiar with since he first broke into the Major Leagues with San Diego in 2002.
Peavy, who is looking to recapture the form that allowed him to win the National League Cy Young Award in 2007, is 13-1 lifetime against the Dodgers with a scant 2.32 ERA in 22 starts. Last season, he was 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA against Los Angeles.
The Padres will certainly lean on Peavy heavily this season, especially in the first month where they can ill afford another 10-17 mark like they had in April of last season in which they were out of the race soon after it started.
Peavy, who will get starts against the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants during the first week of the season, will try to help the Padres reverse their 2008 woes, when they dropped 99 games one season after missing the playoffs by one game.
For the second time in his career, Peavy competed in the World Baseball Classic for Team USA, making two starts. He was 0-1 with a 14.40 ERA, having allowed eight earned runs and five walks in five innings.
He would have pitched in the title game had Team USA defeated Japan in the semifinals.
If there were any concerns about Peavy when he returned to Arizona, they were quickly erased in a start against the Oakland A's on March 27 when he tossed six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.
"I felt good. I've been working hard. I'm as satisfied as I can be this time of year with my command," Peavy said. "[My slider was] one thing I couldn't throw in the World Baseball Classic. That's been a critical pitch for me in my career." Afterwards, two scouts raved about Peavy's performance, especially about his slider, a pitch he's gotten a lot of mileage out of in recent years. That his slider and his command was that good in March, has the Padres excited. As well as Peavy.
"I thought Jake was outstanding," Padres manager Bud Black said. "... The velocity was very solid. It looked like he was hitting his spots and keeping the ball down."
And so after an offseason that Peavy himself called "weird," he's ready to settle in as the No. 1 pitcher in the rotation, pitching for the team he's always pitched for and the team he wants to continue to be with.
"I never came forward and said I wanted to leave San Diego. This offseason uncertainty wasn't brought on by me asking for a trade," said Peavy, who has been in the organization since 1999, the year he was drafted.
"There are no hard feelings," Peavy said. "I don't fault the Padres. They've got to do what they've got to do. I don't understand why they thought it was important to explore a trade for me. If there comes a time when that happens again ... you don't want to be somewhere where you are not wanted. I hope that's not the case here."
SD: RHP Jake Peavy (10-11, 2.85 ERA in 2008)
Peavy, who is looking to recapture the form that allowed him to win the National League Cy Young Award in 2007, is 13-1 lifetime against the Dodgers with a scant 2.32 ERA in 22 starts. The 13 victories is two more than he's had against any other team in the Major Leagues. Last season, when Peavy struggled with getting run support, he was still 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA against Los Angeles. Pitching at PETCO Park, Peavy had a 1.74 ERA last season, though, again, run support cost him as he went just 5-5. Peavy pitched again in the World Baseball Classic in March and struggled, posting a 14.40 ERA. But in his first start back against Oakland, he struck out seven in six scoreless innings. Scouts raved that Peavy's stuff, especially his slider, looked exceptionally sharp, a good sign considering it was still Spring Training. LAD: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.73 ERA in 2008)
Kuroda made his Major League debut April 4, 2008 at PETCO Park, beating the Padres while allowing one run and three hits with no walks and four strikeouts in seven innings. He received the Opening Day assignment this year from manager Joe Torre because, despite having only one season of Major League experience, he's the oldest Dodgers starter at age 34, handled five Opening Day assignments in his native Japan and stepped up in the postseason spotlight with victories against the Cubs and Phillies last October. He was 2-1 against the Padres last season, but the one loss came when he was pitching hurt and was followed by a three-week stint on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis. Kuroda is the second Japanese pitcher to start for the Dodgers on Opening Day, following Hideo Nomo, who did it in 2003 and 2004. Choosing to focus on his second season as a Major League pitcher, Kuroda bypassed a chance to pitch for Team Japan in the recent World Baseball Classic.
Opening Day Fanfare
The theme of Opening Day will center around the Padres 40th Anniversary year. The giveaway, for all fans, will be Opening Day caps, featuring the 40th anniversary logo. The national anthem will be played be the San Diego State marching band. The ceremonial first pitch, four of them in all, will be thrown out by "Downtown" Ollie Brown (the first Padre selected in the expansion draft), Tony Gwynn, Randy Jones and David Winfield.
The Padres have kept 22-year-old shortstop Everth Cabrera on the roster. Cabrera was a Rule 5 addition in December from the Rockies. Cabrera, who hasn't play above Class A, led all Minor Leaguers in stolen bases in 2008 with 73. He has struggled at times with his defense and offense in Spring Training but got better as spring rolled on. He won't just be a defensive replacement or pinch-runner, manager Bud Black said. He'll get a handful of starts, spelling starter Luis Rodriguez. ... Henry Blanco, obtained in the offseason to be the backup at catcher for Nick Hundley, has impressed the team with his arm and bat in Spring Training. He could start anywhere from 2-3 times a week, according to Black. ... The Padres are hoping to improve on their 10-17 mark in April of last season when they fell into last place and couldn't escape. In that mix was a 22-inning loss to the Rockies, a loss that players and staff point to as a down moment that took a while to recover from, because it taxed the pitching staff so much.
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Tuesday: Dodgers (Randy Wolf, 12-12, 4.30) vs. Padres (Chris Young, 7-6, 3.96), 7:05 p.m. PT.
Wednesday: Dodgers (Chad Billingsley, 16-10, 3.14) vs. Padres (Walter Silva, 0-0, 0.00), 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 5-5, 4.26) vs. Padres (Kevin Correia, 3-8, 6.05), 12:35 p.m.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.