PHOENIX -- In his last two starts, Jake Peavy has pitched 9 2/3 innings of one-run ball, watching his ERA cut itself nearly in his half as his comfort and confidence levels have increased exponentially. The relaxed spring atmosphere of tooling his craft during exhibition games with the Rangers and A's over his last two starts is a far cry from the two starts he was making a year ago, wearing the red, white and blue jerseys of Team USA as he competed in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. "Last year I was coming off some [Classic] starts where I was letting it go and trying to do everything I could do to get outs," Peavy said after his outing Monday. "Hopefully, I'll be better prepared for the season staying here. Without a question, this is more conducive to doing what we're here to do."
Peavy remembers last spring's competition as some of the most intense baseball he's ever played, with the stakes as high as it gets. "You put that jersey on, representing your country, and shoot, you're going as hard as you ever went before on any field," Peavy recalled. "There was more intensity than Opening Day. Opening Day was almost a letdown after that. It was unbelievable. I just can't tell you the sense of pride you had. It was an experience I wouldn't dare go back and take away, because it was the coolest thing I've ever done on a baseball field." Still, perhaps because of the intensity level, it didn't give Peavy the kind of preparation he ideally likes heading into a season. By mid-May, he was experiencing pain in his shoulder, and though there's no way of knowing if it was directly related to the high-octane starts in international competition, the contrast to the Cactus League couldn't be any clearer. "Obviously this is a more relaxed environment, conducive to getting ready for the season," Peavy said. "It's been pretty smooth so far. We've left no seat unturned with the work we've put in in the winter and the spring." The only item left to check off his "to-do" list is to build up his pitch count. He threw 88 pitches against the A's on Monday, and he felt comfortable using all of his pitches in any situation. His only personal grievance was a pair of leadoff walks, one in the third against Daric Barton and another in the fifth facing Mark Scutaro. "I'm going to be a little stubborn here," Peavy said, refusing to let the walks wash off him quickly. "The one to Scutaro didn't bother me, but on the one early, I threw four straight fastballs, wide right. That's not making an adjustment quick enough." The walks were sandwiched around six strikeouts, and he yielded only three hits in his shutout outing, so he couldn't deny that something seemed to be working for him. "Everything feels pretty good," Peavy conceded. "I still have a little bit to work out. Just the fastball command. I'll have two more starts, one more that I'll throw probably 90-so pitches and then one more that I'll throttle off before my first start of the season."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.