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03/21/09 4:32 PM EST
Peavy fine with decision to start Oswalt
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
COMPTON, Calif. -- If Jake Peavy was at all miffed by the turn of events in the World Baseball Classic, he wasn't showing any signs of it as he walked off the main field at baseball's Urban Youth Academy on Saturday. Despite years of experience pitching against the Japanese team at home and abroad, Team USA manager Davey Johnson opted to push back Peavy in favor of Roy Oswalt in a single-elimination semifinal game against Japan on Sunday evening at Dodger Stadium. Should the U.S. win, the Padres right-hander will start against the survivor of Saturday night's Korea-Venezuela semifinal on Monday. That's fine with Peavy, he told MLB.com. "I have no problems with it," Peavy said after the U.S. worked out at the Academy on the campus of Compton Community College only about 15 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. "I'm looking forward to starting the championship game. I have a little bit of history with them. They decided to start Roy. I think it's going to be a good move." Oswalt, the Astros right-hander, will face Daisuke Matsuzaka, Japanese manager Tatsunori Hara confirmed on Friday. Peavy has a hard time getting on track thus far in the Classic. He's 0-1 with a 14.40 ERA after two starts, including an 11-1 loss to Puerto Rico his last time out in the opener of Pool 2 at Miami. Oswalt, in contrast, is 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA after defeating The Netherlands, 9-3, last Sunday. Peavy, though, has a long history against the Japanese. He defeated them in the Tokyo Dome in the last game of the 2004 postseason tour of Major League All-Stars. And during the 2006 Classic at Anaheim, Peavy started Team USA's disputed, 4-3 victory over Japan, in which umpire Bob Davidson negated a run and called out a Japanese base runner for apparently leaving third base early on an eight-inning sacrifice fly. The Padres share their Peoria, Ariz., Spring Training base with the Mariners. The two teams are also natural Interleague rivals and play every season. And so, Peavy has had ample opportunity over the years to face Ichiro Suzuki and Kenji Johjima, Japan's starting right fielder and catcher. Peavy said all that may have worked against him. "Maybe there's too much familiarity," said Peavy, who was told about the move by U.S. pitching coach Marcel Lachemann. "Those guys have seen me and know what I'm doing game-plan wise. Maybe that had something to do with it. At the end of the day it wasn't my decision. I'm hoping I get a chance to pitch here and not in Peoria on Monday." Johnson's move is reminiscent of the 2006 National League Division Series between the Padres and Cardinals when then San Diego manager Bruce Bochy opted to hold Peavy for a possible series-deciding Game 5, throwing Woody Williams in Game 4 at St. Louis. That one didn't work out. Williams lost at Busch Stadium III and Peavy never got to pitch. In that case, though, Peavy was nursing a sore shoulder and was called into Bochy's office for a meeting that included general manager Kevin Towers. Peavy was asked directly which day he wanted to pitch. At the time, it was Peavy who said he might need the extra day. This year Johnson and Lachemann didn't ask for that kind of input. Asked Peavy's reaction to the decision, Johnson said on Saturday it was typical of any highly-competitive player. "He wants the ball, he's a competitor, but you have to look at the big picture," Johnson said. "The main reason is Roy's a little farther along. He's thrown more pitches. We can go farther with him. It was a pretty easy decision. Peavy's arm feels fine. He's throwing good. He's had three or four side sessions. And he's feeling good." Peavy's last side session was Friday during the workout at Dodger Stadium. He said he's working on location and building up arm strength. Starters can throw up to 100 pitches in the semifinals and finals, which is about a normal regular-season work load with Opening Day just 16 days away. Peavy hasn't been above 55 pitches yet this spring, "so we'll see how it goes," he said. Peavy also said he's feeling no ill-effects from the elbow problems that landed him on the disabled list last season, limiting him to 10 wins and 27 starts -- down from 19 wins and 34 starts, during his Cy Young Award-winning 2007 season. "I've had three good bullpen sessions in row," Peavy said. "I'm just trying to get my breaking ball back. Just trying to get the ball down in the strike zone and my breaking pitches back to where they are during the regular season. I think I'm getting real close. I think I'm getting there arm-strength wise. I don't think I'm that far away. We'll see when I get out there and go at game speed."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.