Even before the veteran right-hander went to the mound for Triple-A Charlotte on Monday, throwing five scoreless innings in Minor League rehab start No. 3 in the first game of a doubleheader at Gwinnett, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper made it abundantly clear as to how Peavy will primarily decide his return to the Majors.
"Peavy is giving us the input," Cooper said. "You can tell by his words and where he's at verbally, really. He's got a high bar for himself.
"I happen to think he's closer than words were saying, but we are not going to push him out there. We would love to have him back. But we don't worry about what we don't have. We are worried about what we do have."
What the White Sox (63-62) do have is a situation bordering on dire where their postseason possibilities are concerned, following Boston's 12-8 shellacking of the South Siders on Monday night at Fenway Park. The loss dropped the South Siders to 3 1/2 games behind Detroit and left them just one game ahead of third-place Minnesota in the American League Central.
With Monday's debacle marking just the first of 11 consecutive road games against playoff contenders, for a team sitting at 27-32 away from home, the White Sox are in need of a boost and they need it quickly.
Actually, manager Ozzie Guillen and Cooper said all the right things following Monday's setback, when Jose Contreras officially was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen on the heels of giving up seven runs (just one earned) over 2 2/3 innings. Cooper admitted he would know more on Tuesday, when Peavy is scheduled to join the team in Boston, adding how Peavy certainly would be the best option for Saturday and the rest of the season if he's ready to come back from a strained tendon in his right ankle that has sidelined him since June 9. But that's still a major "if."
The decision ultimately rests with the talented hurler, who the White Sox added in a trade with San Diego at the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31.
"He's a Cy Young Award winner. A Cy Young Award winner, when he's healthy, is better than any option you have," Cooper said. "But I don't know if he's there just yet.
"[It would be wrong] to have to quicken his process because we fumbled the ball [Monday] -- two wrongs don't make a right. Peavy will be here when he says the time is right for him. Until I hear it out of his mouth, I'm not going to go with it."
A prevailing school of thought regarding Peavy had him making one more start this weekend for Charlotte and then joining the White Sox at the start of September. As long as Peavy is on the mound by Sept. 2 or 3, he still has the chance to make seven starts this season for Chicago.
His strong effort Monday, in which Peavy fanned three, walked two and allowed four hits, jut might bring him back on Saturday at Yankee Stadium. CC Sabathia is scheduled to take the mound for the Yankees in a game that might have a few media members in attendance.
While Cooper and the White Sox front office certainly aren't pushing Peavy to rush into a decision on his eagerly anticipated comeback, they have talked to him about slightly lessening his lofty expectations for return. Being ready to throw five or six innings on Saturday might be enough to sway Williams and Peavy in making the call, assuming Peavy has no ill-effects from Monday's start, which included taking a line drive off of his pitching elbow.
"One thing we have been getting him off of is that going eight or nine innings and being the man," said Cooper. "He's going to be a great addition when he's ready to come back, but he doesn't have to carry all the weight on his shoulders like he did in San Diego.
"We have other capable guys. If he can feel good going five or six innings, then we will welcome him back with open arms. But again, not until he's ready and says the words."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less