After more than three months of time away from the Majors, after having a seemingly fast-moving injury rehab assignment for a partially torn tendon in his right ankle derailed for more than two weeks by a line drive off of his pitching elbow, Jake Peavy made his White Sox debut Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field against the Royals. And he accomplished pretty much what the White Sox had hoped, if not a bit more, in the South Siders' 13-3 cakewalk before 28,329.
As Peavy pointed out after his victorious return, Saturday's effort stands as just the beginning of what should be an entertaining run on the South Side.
"I did some things well, and I did some things not so well. I have a long way to go to be where I want to be," said Peavy, speaking in the U.S. Cellular Conference and Learning Center, with fireworks going off outside of the stadium. "But I'll take my chances with 13 [runs] any time.
"Once you get out there, it is like riding a bike. It comes back to you. You certainly are comfortable in that surrounding, and I'm going to get better.
"Arm strength is going to get better," Peavy said. "I'm used to having more arm strength and having a little more giddy-up. It will all come in time. I'm not so sure how it will come along this year, because I'm so far behind, but it felt good to get out there and compete."
Peavy didn't have perfect location, not unexpected for a hurler who hasn't pitched in a big league game since June 8 with San Diego. But his pitches had great movement, and he made liberal use of a biting slider to fan five in the first three innings. Peavy threw his fastball consistently in the 92-93 mph range and touched 94 mph.
When the right-hander exited after five innings, he had allowed three runs on three hits, walking two and striking out five. There were two-strike hits allowed to Alberto Callaspo with one out in the second, sparking a two-run rally, not to mention a two-strike home run yielded to Billy Butler with two outs in the third. Those sorts of location issues, though, can be worked on over his remaining two 2009 starts and can be rectified by the time Peavy joins the team for Spring Training in February.
"Over the next few starts, I just want to go out there and compete and give my team a chance to win," Peavy said. "I'm looking forward to next year, to starting fresh and building up and being who I expect to be for this ballclub. It is what it is right now, and I am who I am. I have to compete and throw like I'm capable."
"He threw the ball very well," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "He was a little rough, but that happens when you are not out there for a little while. When he was in the stretch, he had more problems than the windup. He has some stuff, and he will climb up every day."
Randy Williams took over in the sixth, after Peavy had thrown 73 pitches -- 13 in the first, 21 in the second, 19 in the third, nine in the fourth and 11 in the fifth. Forty-seven of those pitches went for strikes, more than enough to impress the Royals.
"He pretty much came right at us. He challenged us," Butler said. "Pretty much fastball, slider. He came out there and challenged us and found the strike zone."
"His stuff was good," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "I thought he was max effort with his delivery. I've only seen him one other time live. But his secondary pitches were sharp and very competitive."
Thanks to a fifth-inning rally from the White Sox (73-76), Peavy picked up his first American League win in his first American League start. The deciding shot for the White Sox came from Carlos Quentin, who launched a grand slam to left on a 3-1 pitch from reliever Yashuiko Yabulta, following walks issued to Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye and Alexei Ramirez's single.
Quentin's grand slam was the second of his career, but also just his second home run in September. He has 17 long balls for the season. Konerko went deep, his 27th, and the White Sox ended an 18-inning scoreless drought with an unearned run in the first off Dusty Hughes (0-1). They added six runs in the eighth, as five players finished with two hits.
Though the victory simply ended a three-game losing streak and the White Sox still sit three games under .500, Guillen's crew moved to within 5 1/2 games of first-place Detroit in the American League Central. Of course, they also sit 3 1/2 games behind the red-hot second-place Twins, who visit the White Sox for three games starting Monday.
Saturday's story centered on Peavy, the man who general manager Ken Williams pried loose from the Padres to give the White Sox a true ace in potential postseason competition. White Sox fans probably will have to wait until at least 2010 to see his playoff effort, but judging by their numerous ovations Saturday, they simply are glad to have Peavy at any stage this season.
"You can see why he won a Cy Young," Guillen said. "He fights, and I like his attitude."
"This was fun," Peavy said. "The fans were great walking out to the bullpen -- standing up and clapping -- and there was quite a crowd around the bullpen. I'm excited to be a Chicago White Sox. I said that from the day I got over here."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.