Country and Western (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday June 5, 2007 12:14PM; Updated: Tuesday June 5, 2007 12:14PM
Opponents are less coy in their appraisals. "He comes at you with everything hard," says Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox. "He's as good as it gets."
Says Mike Maddux, the pitching coach of the Milwaukee Brewers and Greg's brother, "He commands his fastball down and away as good as anybody. The way he's throwing, you'd have to say he's the best in the league right now."
In the summer of 2000 Padres general manager Kevin Towers was sitting in the stands at a Class A ball game in Fort Wayne when a skinny teenager sat down next to him and introduced himself. It was the kid out of St. Paul's Episcopal in Mobile whom the year before Towers had taken in the 15th round of the amateur draft on the recommendation of scout Mark Wasinger, who had raved about the kid's mound moxie.
"I don't get it," the kid said after a while. "Why don't these hitters ever make adjustments? They're supposed to be professionals. I make adjustments every time I'm out there pitching."
Recalls Towers, "That was the first time that I had met Jake -- and I remember thinking, Is this kid 19 or is he Greg Maddux?"
Peavy burned his way through the minors in 3 1/2 years thanks to a polished repertoire that includes a high-90s fastball, an 88-mph slider, a low-80s changeup and an occasional mid-70s curve. In 2004 and '05, his second and third full seasons in the majors, he was 28-13 with a 2.61 ERA and struck out more than a batter per inning. Last year, however, he slipped to 11-14 with a 4.06 ERA as he battled tendinitis in his right shoulder. "I just could not kick it," he says.
There was another reason for the regression: Peavy's worsening eyesight. Without contacts or glasses, all Peavy sees is "a big blur of colors," but his eyesight is correctable with the right prescription contacts. He shrugs off his deficiency -- "It's just something I've dealt with for a long time, something I've gotten used to and something I'll just have to continue to deal with" -- but it became so bad last season that teammates believe he often couldn't see the catcher's signs. (In high school, Peavy's catchers always wore white tape around their fingers.) Peavy was given a new prescription in spring training of 2006, but it wasn't until August that he got new lenses. Perhaps not accidentally, he was 5-3 with a 2.85 ERA over the last month and a half of the season.
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