When a minor league baseball team gets to borrow a major leaguer for a while, it’s a pretty big deal.
It’s always been fun to cover the occasional minor league rehab assignment (or is it major league rehab? I’ve seen it called both) by a big-league player coming back from an injury.
The Charlotte Knights hosted one of these on Wednesday, a starting pitching turn by 29-year-old right-hander Jake Peavy. Peavy won the 2007 Cy Young Award while playing for the San Diego Padres, but his career has been plagued by injuries since then. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox, the Knights’ parent club, in 2009.
Peavy is currently coming back from surgery to re-attach a detached latissimus dorsi muscle (just click the link) in the offseason, a condition that also resulted in some shoulder tendinitis this spring.
He pitched for the first time this season last Friday with the White Sox’ Class AA team in Birmingham, Ala., not all that far from his current home in Tuscaloosa. (He’s a native of Mobile.) The Knights, the Sox’ Class AAA affiliate, gave him his second start.
The Knights generally get the benefit of a big, curious crowd for these appearances by the major-leaguers. For example, in 2005 Knights Stadium had an attendance of Fourth of July proportions when future Hall of Famer Curt Schilling pitched a rehab assignment for the visiting Pawtucket Red Sox.
Wednesday’s crowd was only 2,111, but they got a good show. To his credit, Peavy pitched a decent outing — 6 innings, 8 hits allowed, 2 runs, no walks, 4 strikeouts. Click here for the story I wrote about it for the Chicago Tribune.
(It can be a little awkward when the major leaguer doesn’t do well, especially if he’s a pitcher. I honestly don’t remember who the pitcher was, but the Knights were in a battle for a playoff spot near the end of the season a few years back, and the visitor from the White Sox was awful, giving up 6 runs in about 2-2/3 innings and leaving the Knights to pick up the pieces in a game they really needed to win.)
Anyway, Peavy was pretty sharp against a good-hitting Durham Bulls team and allowed only a few hard-hit balls. That included a monster home run by Russ Canzler that had the Bulls ahead 2-1 when Peavy left the game after six innings.
Looking a little like half of the Michelin man, with the right shoulder heavily taped, Peavy met the media after taking a few more throws in the bullpen. He was approachable and cordial, which isn’t always the case with some of these major leaguers, and surprisingly forthcoming about how he felt about his outing.(I’ve found that pro athletes can sometimes be pretty close-mouthed about their injuries and you really can’t blame them. Their bodies are their livelihoods.)
In passing, I learned about one of the conventions of these assignments that’s popular with the host team. The major leaguer usually ponies up for dinner for his temporary teammates, and Peavy said he paid for a spread from Outback Steakhouse for the Knights.
(According to a Knights staff member, the team’s long-time clubhouse man, Dan Morphis, tells a story of how White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin, on rehab in Charlotte a couple of seasons ago, gave Morphis his credit card and told him to get lobster for everybody.)
A nice perk for letting someone be your teammate for a few days.