Peavy takes another significant step forward

Peavy takes another significant step forward

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Give Jake Peavy high marks for his 40-pitch live batting practice session on Wednesday at Camelback Ranch, and an even higher grade for his perspective shown after the workout.

The veteran right-hander stands in the midst of a comeback from season-ending surgery to repair a detached latissimus dorsi muscle in his right posterior shoulder. Peavy's ultimate target would be to break camp with the White Sox and be in Cleveland for the 2011 season opener on April 1.

Maybe Peavy could even be ready to take the fifth spot in the rotation as soon as April 6 at Kauffman Stadium. It would serve as the grand culmination of all the hard work put in by Peavy since suffering the injury while pitching on July 6 at home against the Angels.

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But Opening Day really isn't the defining moment for Peavy, as he explained on Wednesday. His greatest feat would be to make strong contributions throughout the entire 2011 campaign without any setbacks.

"I just want to be healthy for the majority part of this season," Peavy said. "If I'm healthy this whole season and throw 200 innings with the guys, it's certainly something I want to do. But if I don't, I don't see myself being that far behind.

"When I get back, I just want to make sure there's not any kind of setbacks. There's stuff that pops up all through the year you have to deal with and kind of take care of. But we are going to put this lat stuff, we are coming off major surgery, and we want to make sure that's all a go before we turn the reins completely loose."

Those reins became a little looser on Wednesday during Peavy's second 40-pitch live bullpen session in the past three days. Once again, the outing was split up into two "innings," with Peavy throwing 20 pitches, sitting down and giving way to Gavin Floyd, and then coming back to throw 20 more.

Of those 40 pitches, Peavy estimated 10 or 12 of those were of the breaking ball variety. It marked a significant climb from just the handful of off-speed pitches Peavy threw on Monday.

Having these breaking balls look crisp and sharp becomes another bonus in this climb to a regular-season return.

"It looked like the old Peavy, breaking ball stuff," said White Sox catcher Ramon Castro, who was behind the plate Wednesday when Peavy threw to hitters Lastings Milledge, Omar Vizquel and Eduardo Escobar. "With the fastball he's not there yet, but he's going to get there."

"Now he is throwing the ball better," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of Peavy. "He probably went up a notch in intensity. He certainly is doing what everybody else is doing. It's a credit to the surgeons, Jake and Herm [Schneider, White Sox head athletic trainer], following up on all the things he is supposed to be doing."

A set routine follows for Peavy after each live BP or bullpen, where he talks to Schneider and the doctors about the pitches he threw, and what he was feeling at the time. As for pain, Peavy continues to have nothing more than the normal soreness coming for starters as they build themselves up at the start of Spring Training.

In fact, Peavy compared notes with those other White Sox starters about their early bouts with soreness after Wednesday's performance. Peavy also has been extremely cognizant of keeping his mechanics on track, pointing to a change from what made him successful following a 2009 ankle injury that contributed to his slow start in 2010.

Cooper believes Peavy's mechanics are fine and he's not protecting anything when throwing. To make sure he stays at an optimum level mechanics-wise, Peavy has sought out help from friends and former Padres coaches Darrel Akerfelds and Darren Balsley, who are in nearby Peoria and familiar with Peavy at his best.

"I've been out in the street begging those guys to watch me throw to just make sure I look the same," said Peavy with a smile, talking about throwing for the Padres coaches when he's had them over for dinner. "I've done that to make sure my throwing motion after a major surgery is the same, and when the games start, we certainly will watch those videos and compare them to the first part of '09 when I was with San Diego.

"That was the last time I had sound mechanics due to my ankle. And then the end of that year got off mechanically because of that ankle. Then the start of 2010, I was geared toward being that guy because that's who these guys thought I was. We are certainly cognizant of it and we'll make sure we stay on top of it."

Two days off follow for Peavy, and then Cooper mentioned it's somewhat up to Peavy as to what he wants to throw on Saturday. His first Cactus League start is set for March 4 in Tempe against the Angels, and that game will present another important part of the climb.

His climb could lead to Cleveland. It could lead to joining the team some time after the season's open. Either way, Peavy simply is focused on getting healthy and getting ready for the long haul.

"He certainly has more to do," Cooper said. "But I don't think the climb could be going any nicer than it is right now."

"I'm not sure if there's one thing, but that's going to be a telling tale, when I start a game and go five, six innings, if I'm able to take a day off, throw a bullpen, and get ready to start again in five or six days and go six or seven innings," Peavy said. "At that moment, we might know if I'm going to be ready to start the season, or if I'm going to need a few more weeks."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen and follow him on twitter at @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.