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For Jake Peavy, baseball must take a back seat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — After 17 professional spring trainings, Jake Peavy's instincts point him toward the comfort of a baseball diamond. He should be arriving bleary-eyed at the clubhouse with a cup of coffee at 7 a.m. and getting ready for a bullpen session rather than working out at his ranch in Alabama and coaching part time just up the road at Morgan Academy.

Peavy is still home in Catherine (population: 22), a world removed from the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues, because real life has gotten in the way.

While still dealing with the fallout of an investment scandal that cost him millions, Peavy is sorting through turmoil in his personal life. Katie, his wife of 15 years, filed for divorce in October, and he has spent the offseason tending to the needs of his four sons until the legal proceedings are finalized this spring.

So when teams contacted his agent, Jeff Berry, over the winter, Peavy asked for patience and a little more time. Baseball will be his priority soon enough, but there are too many disruptions to navigate and relationships to stabilize before he can jump back into the fray.

"It hurts not to be in spring training," Peavy said by phone. "I know that day is coming, but right now being a dad is absolutely No. 1. There's no way in a million years that I could leave my boys at this time."

Last season was the most emotionally draining of Peavy's career for reasons apart from his 1.43 WHIP and 5.54 ERA. He was blindsided last February as a victim of a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Ash Narayan, a financial adviser who had taken money purportedly designated for conservative investments and funneled it to a failed sports and entertainment ticket business based in Chicago. Peavy, former MLB pitcher Roy Oswalt and NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez were the most prominent of 45 investors scammed by Narayan, who earned the athletes' trust through their shared Christian faith and mutual interest in charity work.

Peavy, who has earned about $127 million in his career, according to Baseball-reference.com, reportedly lost millions in the scam. While he recently reached a settlement to recover part of the money he lost, the ordeal sapped the joy from his naturally gregarious personality.

Jake Peavy posted a career-worst 5.54 ERA in 2016, up nearly two full runs from his 3.58 mark in 2015. Brad Mangin/Getty Images

Peavy had to take part in conference calls on days when he was pitching — sometimes hours before taking the mound — and leave the team between outings to give depositions and meet with lawyers, FBI agents and investigators from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Some of his most valued off-field relationships suffered greatly during the ordeal. "It turned my whole world upside-down," Peavy said. "For the first time ever, it was hard to give my 150 percent focus, time and energy to baseball. It was such a tough year, because everything I have built and played for was jeopardized to some degree. When you've known people your whole life and career and they let you down and they're not who you thought you were, it's devastating.

"It turned me into a person I never wanted to be. People would text me and I'd say, 'What does this person want from me? What's their motive?' I had numerous relationships for 10-15 years with people who let me and my family down in a huge way. You put the blame on yourself in these situations, but I can't even tell you the mindset I was in from the start of spring training through the season."

Peavy stepped on a pair of scissors in a household accident late last season and made his last appearance in relief on Sept. 21. Then his personal life began spiraling downhill. After the Giants' season ended in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Peavy went home and was served with divorce papers. He chooses to acknowledge his marital strife publicly because he wants teams to know he's healthy and eager to pitch.

"When I sign with a team, I'm all in. For me to leave right now with so much uncertainty in my life, it wouldn't be fair to an organization and it wouldn't be the right thing to do as far as being a dad."

Jake Peavy

Peavy's four sons range in age from 2½ to 15, and he has recently been spending more time at their games and practices. The oldest boy, Jacob II, has become his baseball workout partner.

"I'm not shying away from getting divorced," Peavy said. "It's not something I'm proud of or something I wanted or asked for, but it happened and I'm dealing with that. But I also have four boys I'm responsible for in life, and I just feel deep down that it's in my best interests and my family's interests to be there through this time.

"When I sign with a team, I'm all in. For me to leave right now with so much uncertainty in my life, it wouldn't be fair to an organization and it wouldn't be the right thing to do as far as being a dad."

Peavy, a three-time All-Star, won a Cy Young Award in 2007 as an undersized right-hander with middling velocity. His stint in baseball purgatory comes at a time when aging pitchers throughout the game have had to scramble for employment. Jered Weaver, who ranks 10th in MLB in innings pitched since 2009, just signed a $3 million deal with the San Diego Padres. Jorge De La Rosa is in Arizona's camp competing for a bullpen job, and Colby Lewis, who won 17 games for the Texas Rangers in 2015, is still out of work.

While Peavy's 89.5 mph average fastball in 2016 was subpar by baseball standards, his spin rate graded out extremely well when indexed for velocity. Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black, who managed Peavy in San Diego from 2007 through 2009, says he thinks his former ace still has something left in the tank at age 35.

"Just look at where Jake is now in his career," Black said. "Cy Young Award winner. Been a world champion. Passion and heart. Competitiveness. Those are great attributes to bring to a team. I saw him last year with the Giants go through stretches of making pitches and getting results. There's some [usage] in that arm, but there are potentially some good innings in there for a team."

An American League scout says he thinks Peavy could ultimately benefit from a delayed start to his season.

"He has incredible savvy and know-how," the scout said. "I believe he has something left to contribute. I just don't think he can go wire-to-wire where he is in his career. He's probably better suited for a second-half run when he's fresh and you can get the best out of him."

Until that day arrives, Peavy channels his competitive edge into his daily workouts. Carl Kochan, the Giants' strength and conditioning coach, has sent him an individualized training program, and Peavy spends four hours a day doing weight work, Pilates, stretching and a variety of baseball activities at the home gym and mini-Fenway Park he has constructed at his ranch. At some point soon he'll climb on a mound and hold a showcase for potential suitors as part of his quest to pitch in 2017.

Despite his undisclosed financial losses, Peavy has enough money to survive without baseball. His desire to continue playing stems less from economic hardship than a need to see his career through to the end on his terms.

"The timing of it stinks," Peavy said. "It hurts. Me and my boys are baseball fans. We watch MLB Network and we keep up. The majority of my friends in life are in spring training or coaching somewhere, and I still talk to people on a daily basis.

"I still believe with all my heart that I can do this and do it at a high level. It's like I tell people, 'I don't play baseball. I'm a baseball player.' It's who I am. And I just know my days aren't finished."

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