Peavy pumped for spring, WBC

Peavy leads champion Padres into Peoria

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Jake Peavy heard from a buddy in Florida on Thursday afternoon before going to a mound and throwing about 40 pain-free, mechanically sound pitches to familiar target Mark Merila, the Padres bullpen catcher.

"Dontrelle Willis sent me a text message," Peavy said, referring to the Florida Marlins left-hander and his soon-to-be Team USA moundmate in the World Baseball Classic. "He said, 'It's you and me at Bank One [Ballpark in Phoenix].' Dontrelle's a great guy. We're excited about it."

Peavy, the Padres' 24-year-old ace, will start for Team USA and manager Buck Martinez in the opener of the inaugural WBC against Mexico on March 7 at Chase Field, formerly Bank One Ballpark, the regular-season home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Willis will work the second game of the WBC.

During the first round, pitchers will operate under a 60-pitch limit. Peavy won't go beyond three innings or 60 pitches against Team Mexico, which likely will include two of Jake's new teammates, third baseman Vinny Castilla and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

An excitable sort under normal circumstances, Peavy said he stepped up his offseason training routine when he learned he'd be involved in this new event, learning about two weeks ago from Martinez that he'd start the opener.

Peavy spent the early part of the winter resting a fractured rib sustained in October in St. Louis in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

Saying he was "fully healed and ready to go," Peavy clearly was ahead of the game during his session on Thursday, attended by Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley and bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds.

"His delivery looked better than it usually does early in spring," Balsley said. "Normally it takes him a couple sessions in Spring Training to get his mechanics down -- and he looked pretty solid today.

"He's a little bigger, a little stronger. He put on about five pounds. No matter what he does, Jake competes. He wants to be ready for this. It's hard to tell off one session, but he looked good."

Peavy's accelerated schedule doesn't pertain to staff colleagues, who filtered into the clubhouse and greeted one another on the scheduled reporting day for pitchers and catchers. Physicals are scheduled for Friday, with the first full workout on Saturday.

Closer Trevor Hoffman unpacked and joked that he could grab a notebook or microphone and interview a few of his new teammates without their recognition of his identity.

There are, indeed, lots of new faces, with the rotation and bullpen both going through makeovers.

The anchors -- Peavy, Hoffman and setup man Scott Linebrink -- remain in place, but newcomers could comprise several rotation spots and form a reshaped corps of middle relievers.

"I feel good, and I'm anxious to get going," Peavy said. "We have a lot of new faces around here, and that's exciting, in a sense. The [NL West] is going to be a great division this year, so we have our work cut out for us trying to repeat.

"I hope we come together in six weeks, although a couple of key players -- myself, Mike [Piazza], Vinny -- will be spending part of the spring with our [WBC] teams. They want to get us together for a while to promote team and unity, and I'm all for that."

Two of his old San Diego buddies, starters Adam Eaton (Texas) and Brian Lawrence (Washington), have moved on, leaving vacancies in the rotation that are expected to be filled by former Ranger Chris Young and veteran southpaw Shawn Estes -- although Clay Hensley and Tim Stauffer plan to make bids.

Hensley can start or relieve, depending on where manager Bruce Bochy, Balsley and Co. decide he's needed most.

Chan Ho Park, Young's teammate in Texas before coming to San Diego in the Phil Nevin swap last summer, also figures prominently in the rotation.

Lefty Alan Embree, who flourished in San Diego in 2002, returns, determined to fill Chris Hammond's role, while Scott Cassidy, Brian Sikorski, Doug Brocail and Steve Andrade are among the leading candidates to replace invaluable Rudy Seanez and Akinori Otsuka.

"If we stay healthy, we've got a good mix here," Peavy, emerging as a team leader, said.

Noting that he'll be pitching for two teams this spring, Peavy said he's equally excited about forming a projected WBC rotation with "good buddies" Willis and the great Roger Clemens, along with Cleveland left-hander C.C. Sabathia, a player he has not met.

"We have some guys who can play baseball, and we're going to do everything we can to make this our game, so to speak," Peavy said. "But we're going to have some serious competition in this Classic.

"Those Latin American clubs, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, are going to be loaded. Shoot, they had guys throwing eight innings [Venezuela's Geremi Gonzalez] in the Caribbean Series. They'll be in midseason form. This is going to be a big challenge."

According to Balsley, Peavy will pitch in a March 2 exhibition against Seattle, probably two innings, to prepare for his March 7 start against Team Mexico. He'll be right on his regular schedule in that second outing.

"Throwing three innings, that's not the biggest thing," Peavy said. "In the [Classic], I'll probably be going a little harder than against the Seattle Mariners. That's why I have to go a little harder to get ready."

For Padres faithful, Spring Training 2006 couldn't start on a more upbeat note than Peavy throwing comfortably, without pain.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.