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Why Jake Peavy is trying something he hasn’t done in four years

09.18.13 at 9:35 am ET
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Attempting to rediscover something that had been missing for the past four years this time of year ‘€“ in the midst of a pennant race — isn’€™t typical for a major league pitcher.

But that’€™s exactly what Jake Peavy is attempting to accomplish.

Last Thursday’€™s start against the Rays marked the first time since 2009 that Peavy pitched with the kind of three-quarters arm angle he had implemented during what had been a dominant career in San Diego.

‘€œIt’€™s almost like a whole new start,’€ said Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves.

The impetus for the change came when Peavy and Nieves were analyzing film of the pitcher’€™s Cy Young run with the Padres in 2007. The righty had raised his arm angle after coming back from an ankle injury in ‘€™09, and when he was dealt to the White Sox that that year (turning in a 1.35 ERA in three starts) the coaching staff encouraged him to stay the course.

Four seasons later, Peavy found himself having strayed from what had felt natural for the first seven seasons of his career.

‘€œI gravitated toward being that guy as opposed to what I was in San Diego,’€ the pitcher explained.

So, after a few bullpen sessions, Peavy decided to officially return to his old arm slot when going up against Tampa Bay. He had felt the need for more action on his slider in particular, and the feeling was this change was what was going to deliver those results.

‘€œAfter injuries, if you find any contribution to your longevity it’€™s good. And when you remember when you were really good, it’€™s great to have,’€ Nieves said. ‘€œYou might not be the guy you were in ‘€™07, you can be the best you can be. Also to recognize it is great. A lot of guys who have shoulder surgery lose their angle for good.’€

The results in St. Petersburg, Fla. were somewhat of a mixed bag, with Peavy walking a career-high five batters while allowing three runs over six innings.

But the righty felt the switch resulted in some significant payoffs, especially in regards to his slider. Peavy threw the pitch 11 times, eight of which were for strikes with Desmond Jennings taking advantage of an elevated offering for his solo home run.

‘€œIt definitely feels different because it’€™s a little bit different from what I’€™ve been doing on a normal basis,’€ Peavy said. ‘€œIt feels awfully good. It feels normal for me to throw the ball there. Your trigger points. Your foot landing. Your release point with the ball in your hand, on top of the ball and around the ball. It feels just a tad bit different. There’€™s a fine line to throwing the ball where you want to throw it and missing six to eight inches.’€

In the end, however, both Peavy and his pitching coach came away feeling like the return to his ‘€™07 form will be the right way to go.

‘€œI thought his stuff was really sharp, especially his slider,’€ Nieves said. ‘€œHe’€™s still got a lot of work to do. It’€™s not a change in arm angle, just a little alteration. He feels more comfortable now that he’€™s healthy. I think at the beginning he was protecting it, but now he feels comfortable throwing sides between starts. We might be some more velocity, too.  (Note: Peavy’€™s fastball maxed out at 92 mph, one mph faster than his previous start.) A couple of times he made mistakes and guys hit him, but I thought the slider he threw without trying harder was a great plus.’€

‘€œThe swings and misses at the breaking ball tonight, and the balls that were hit on the ground with the sinker, that’€™s what I want,’€ Peavy said. ‘€œThat was my [modis operandi] back in the day, and I believe I can get back to it with some video, and Juan Nieves as my pitching coach. It’€™s not anything drastic or earth-shattering stuff, but it’€™s going to make a little bit of a difference with me going forward. I’€™m excited.

‘€œI’€™m super-excited the way I feel.’€

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