MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Peavy eager to start in city where he starred

Giants righty hopes back healthy enough to pitch at Petco Park

Peavy eager to start in city where he starred

PHOENIX -- Given his choice in the matter, Jake Peavy would rather start Sunday in San Diego instead of the Giants' home opener Monday against the Rockies. And there's good reason for that.

"I haven't pitched there since [the Padres] traded me," said Peavy, a high school kid and 15th-round pick by the Padres out of Mobile, Ala., in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft. "It's been so long, but it will be special. It will be fun. There are a lot of good memories when I go back to that ballpark."

It's not as if Peavy needed any motivation. But just the thought of pitching again at Petco Park for the first time in nearly six years was added incentive for the 33-year-old right-hander to overcome back problems that caused him to miss his first start of the season Tuesday night at Chase Field.

In some pain when he tried to pitch in the bullpen anyway Tuesday night, Peavy met with Giants manager Bruce Bochy in his office after that game to plead his case. Bochy listened and gave him an extra day rather than place him on the disabled list. Prior to Wednesday night's 5-2 win over the D-backs, Peavy threw a 45-pitch bullpen session and walked off the mound with a big smile on his face, saying that he felt much better.

"Like night and day," Peavy said.

Disaster narrowly averted, for now. Really, Bochy didn't give Peavy much of a choice. Right now, rookie Chris Heston will start Monday after he stymied the D-backs on three hits and two unearned runs in six innings to pick up his first Major League win as an emergency replacement for the injured Matt Cain.

Peavy was told he'll start Sunday, if healthy. Bochy was Peavy's first manager in San Diego, and he knows him better than anybody. He also was well aware that Peavy hadn't pitched at Petco Park since June 8, 2009.

"Yeah, I know, I know. He told me about it," Bochy said. "Hopefully it'll all go well and he can pitch there on Sunday. I know Jake. He's got a lot of memories there. I'm sure he is excited to go back there and pitch."

Peavy played his first eight of 13 big league seasons for the Padres, and despite winning the World Series the last two Octobers with Boston and San Francisco, he's never been content about the way things ended for him in San Diego. Join the crowd. Tim Flannery was dismissed as a coach there. Bochy was pushed out as manager. Trevor Hoffman was forced to finish his career in Milwaukee.

During Peavy's last game at Petco Park, he strained a tendon in his right ankle and left after seven innings, never to pitch again for the Padres. Under pressure for a year to waive a no-trade clause in his long-term contract little more than a month later, Peavy finally relented and was swapped to the White Sox, a typical salary dump during that Padres era. No matter.

"San Diego is a special place to me," Peavy said Wednesday. "It was the organization that drafted me, gave me my first opportunity and believed in me. It was home. I still have a house there. San Diego will always be near and dear to me. That being said, a lot has changed."

Video: Peavy on Padres' All-Decade team

Still, one has to wonder whether Peavy will ever get the recognition he deserves in what they call America's Finest City. He was 92-68 with a 3.29 ERA and 1,348 strikeouts in his years with the Padres, turning in an epic 2007 season when he won the National League Cy Young Award and swept the league's pitching Triple Crown with 19 wins, a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts. He pitched for two division winners, and that 2007 season ended with the Padres losing a one-game tiebreaker for the Wild Card spot at Colorado.

Peavy holds the Padres' all-time strikeout record by 312 over Andy Benes. Hoffman, a significant Hall of Fame candidate for the first time later this year, had 1,029 in 16 seasons. Peavy's 92 victories are tied with Randy Jones for second behind Eric Show, the only Padres pitcher to reach 100. And his ERA is fourth behind Hoffman, Dave Dravecky and Bruce Hurst.

Hoffman (51) and Jones (35) are among five Padres to have their numbers retired. The others are Tony Gwynn, Steve Garvey and Dave Winfield. The left-handed Jones is the only starter. He was 92-105 with a 3.30 ERA and 667 strikeouts in eight seasons with the Padres, last playing for them in 1980. He won the 1976 NL Cy Young Award with a 22-14 record and a 2.74 ERA. Those numbers pale in comparison to Peavy.

Last September, after the July 26 trade that brought Peavy over from Boston, the Giants traveled to San Diego, but Peavy's spot in the rotation didn't come up during the three-game series. Bochy and the since-retired Flannery teased Peavy relentlessly because Jones' number is displayed high atop retirement row on the hitting eye in center field. Plus, Rene Rivera was wearing Peavy's old No. 44. A double slight.

Clearly, Bochy believes that when Peavy's playing days are over, that No. 44 should be up there.

"He meant a lot to that franchise," said Bochy, who managed 12 years there, winning four division titles and one NL pennant. "He was very popular with the fans and I think they appreciated the intensity with which he played. I could see his number being retired. That would be cool. He was the man there. There was Tony, Trevor and then there was Jake."

If all goes well, it'll be Jake again on the hill at Petco Park this coming Sunday.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.