CHICAGO -- It's not hard for Jake Peavy to remember the last time he threw a pitch from the U.S. Cellular Field mound.
There are times when the right-hander would like to forget. And there are probably times when the matchup against Mike Napoli on July 6, 2010, flashed into his mind. There was plenty of time for both during an intense offseason rehabilitation regimen to come back from experimental surgery to reattach the tendon that anchors the latissimus dorsi muscle to the rear of the shoulder.
But that moment of pain following the pitch stands as too vivid a reminder to put out of his mind.
"I never felt a worse pain in my life," said Peavy, speaking after he spearheaded the White Sox 1-0 victory over American League Central-leading Cleveland on Wednesday night. "And I knew I felt something that turned loose in my arm and went down in my back, and it felt as worse as I've ever felt on the mound."
Hearing that cringe-worthy description from 10 months ago and then watching Peavy (1-0) dominate one of Major League Baseball's hottest teams makes it possible to realize how hard Peavy has worked to get back to Chicago. For the first time since the White Sox acquired him from San Diego at the July 2009 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Peavy feels healthy.
Maybe not 2007 Cy Young perfect, but Peavy seems to be climbing with each start he makes. Against the Indians (26-14), Peavy yielded three harmless singles in the 111-pitch complete-game effort. He didn't walk a batter, allowed only one runner to reach second base -- with one out in the seventh -- and fanned eight.
Two of those strikeouts were of Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera to close out his ninth career complete game and his fifth career shutout. Peavy touched 94 mph on his seventh pitch of the game and hit 93 mph on pitch No. 111.
"I'm not sure about the velocity, but when he just throws strikes like he did, I feel awful because he was up there giving me pitches to hit and I was missing them," said Cleveland designated hitter Shelley Duncan, who filled in for Travis Hafner after the left-handed slugger was a late scratch with right side soreness. "There's a lot of guys on this team he was really good with hitting the corners, doing what he needed to do to win. He was himself, switching arm angles, screwing your timing up. Just tricky Peavy."
"The good thing is it looks like he's got his arm strength back," said White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, who added that he hadn't seen Peavy throw this well in two or three years. "He's not going to walk anybody, so he's just going to make them hit it."
When the Indians did hit the ball, it usually was at one of the White Sox players. On the rare occasion when a connection was apparently out of reach, such as Orlando Cabrera's deep blast to left-center leading off the eighth, center fielder Brent Lillibridge lent a helping hand and made a sliding catch to take away extra bases.
Lost somewhat amidst Peavy's spectacular effort was an equally brilliant performance from Cleveland starter Justin Masterson (6-2). The right-hander defeated the White Sox during the third game of the regular season in Cleveland, beginning the Indians' ascension to currently one of the game's top teams, and he might have had better stuff on Wednesday.
Masterson allowed the one run on five hits, striking out eight and walking two in his third career complete game. The one run for the White Sox (19-25) scored in the first when Juan Pierre doubled and moved to third on Omar Vizquel's single to right. Dunn lofted a fly ball to center to score Pierre and thus completed the scoring before this game had really started.
This sort of mound battle is the type of game relished by a defensive-minded, pitching-directed manager such as Ozzie Guillen.
"That's a [great] ballgame," Guillen said. "That's fun to watch and see those two guys battle back and forth, getting people out. I love this type of game more than 13-12 with 12 home runs. This is a game people should be paying to watch."
"Just a case of two pitchers going out there battling," said Masterson, who threw 73 of his 115 pitches for strikes. "Jake Peavy, I think he's the story of the night. He did a great job out there throwing strikes."
At some point after the July 14 surgery performed by Dr. Anthony Romeo, who was in attendance on Wednesday, Peavy certainly had visions of returning to this top-notch form. It's just hard to imagine that return could come in under one year of recovery time.
Peavy's last shutout happened on June 19 in Washington, D.C., and also was a 1-0, three-hit victory. Three starts later, Peavy walked off the mound in excruciating pain, wondering what would become of a pitcher fostering a 103-74 record.
A clear-cut answer was provided on Wednesday, with Guillen giving Peavy a chance to finish what he started and Peavy not really offering up a chance to give way for the ninth.
"Yeah, I just said, 'This is my game.' [Guillen] said, 'I'm not taking you out," Peavy said. "To come back tonight and have the night we had with the boys ... I got traded to be the guy you saw tonight, and I will do everything I can do to be that guy. Personally, I feel so blessed to have the opportunity, once again, to go out there.
"For your stuff to come back, especially on a night like tonight when you have the first-place team coming in and win 1-0 against a guy who really has had our number, obviously, it's personally gratifying. At the same time, you got to put personal matters aside. A great win by the boys."