Jake Peavy has had a productive career, but he hasn't consistently stayed on the mound since his early days with the Padres. From 2003 through 2008, Peavy averaged 30 starts and 194 innings per season while also putting up the best numbers of his career. Since then, though, he's dealt with constant injuries, and it's kept him from fully living up to the value of the contracts he's signed.
The Red Sox have Peavy in the last year of his current deal, and possibly for the last season of his career, as Peavy himself has hinted might be a possibility. Part of the reason he might be willing to step away is that he's won a World Series after 12 years in the game, but also because he's spent so much time injured and working back from said injuries, rather than actually playing, over the course of the last five years.
In 2009, Peavy missed 91 games thanks to straining his ankle while running the bases. In 2010, he detached his latissimus dorsi, and underwent shoulder surgery, a procedure that cost him 80 games that year and another 30 in 2011. He also dealt with a groin strain that put him on the 15-day DL that summer. In 2012, Peavy avoided the disabled list, but would fracture his rib cage the following year while still with the White Sox, costing him 36 games and the chance to make 30 starts in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2006-2007 while with San Diego. Oddly, no one knows how Peavy fractured his rib, only that he began to pitch poorly, and an MRI discovered the break, resulting in the missed time.
Not all of these problems are due to being a pitcher: the rib fracture and ankle strain were more fluke injury than anything. It's probably fair to say that Peavy has a penchant for getting hurt, though, as he also had a history of elbow and shoulder problems even when he was generally healthy and making his turns in the rotation. Now 33, it's unlikely he's going to be any less susceptible to injury than he's been in the past as well.
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It's easy to be pessimistic about his chances for sticking through the whole season, given he's made over 20 starts in a season just twice five years. There are a few things Red Sox fans can console themselves with while they hold their breath to see if Peavy makes it through 2014, however. As said, a few of those injuries were of the freak/fluke variety, and his shoulder and elbow have been healthier the past two seasons than they have been in years. In addition, Boston is loaded with pitching depth, should Peavy not be quite so lucky the next time he's preparing to go fishing with his son.
The shoulder and elbow healthiness is the brightest point, of course. Peavy has missed time recently, sure, but he's made it through consecutive campaigns where his elbow and shoulder were not the cause, as they both have been in the past. In that time, he produced a 115 ERA+ over 55 starts, and even though 2013 was the worse of the two campaigns, he still contributed a 101 ERA+ between his time with the White and Red Sox. If he's right around there once more, and makes 25-30 starts for Boston, then he's more than done his job in the last year of his deal.
If he ends up missing more time than that, whether it's due to some other odd malady or because arm troubles finally return, the Red Sox have a lengthy list of replacements for him in the rotation. Brandon Workman could resume 2013's initial role as a starter -- a role he might be taking over for Peavy in 2015 regardless of how the veteran's 2014 works out. Allen Webster, should he finally get his command in order, could also be in line to fill in for Peavy. Matt Barnes will start at Triple-A this year, and while he's down the depth chart right now, he could be the top pitching prospect they have in the upper levels. Anthony Ranaudo, should he get his change-up and mechanics to both work consistently, is also an option. In an early season emergency, Chris Capuano is there, though, as we've recently discussed, should Peavy go to the disabled list, it's likely Workman's spot to fill in April.
Peavy's health matters to the 2014 Red Sox, but if he ends up hurt, they have other options. Luckily, recent history suggests that his most significant injury problems are behind him, or, at the least, not looming over him as they did in year's past. That's about all you can ask for with most pitchers during spring training.