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Peavy eager to fulfill White Sox expectations

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The key to the White Sox seizing back the AL Central crown says he's in the best shape of his life. He's throwing hard off of a mound in eager anticipation of spring training and vows to be ready by opening day.

But here's the scary thing for rehabbing ace Jake Peavy: His particular injury, a latissimus dorsi muscle torn completely from the bone under his right shoulder last July 6, is pretty much unprecedented for a big league pitcher.

Jake Peavy is hoping to make a successful return from a torn latissimus dorsi muscle, an unusual injury. (US Presswire)  
Jake Peavy is hoping to make a successful return from a torn latissimus dorsi muscle, an unusual injury. (US Presswire)  
"Kerry Wood and Flash Gordon, they had some tears in that muscle," Peavy was telling me during a telephone conversation this week as his boy ran around a San Diego playground in the background.

But the worst of those, according to doctors treating Peavy, was a 30 or 40 percent tear.

"You're talking tearing it completely off of the bone, there's a lot of uncertainty," Peavy said.

Yet at the head of a list of several key players facing big springs as they return from serious injury, this is how certain Peavy is that he's about to play a big part in a memorable White Sox summer:

"I'm 29," said Peavy, the 2009 NL Cy Young award winner. "I know I've been in the league quite awhile. But one of my pet peeves is people talking about me like I'm old.

"I've got a lot of good years left to give."

If 2011 can be one of them for a loaded White Sox team that includes newcomer Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Mark Buehrle and others, Peavy will take a huge step toward putting Chicago's 2009 trade for him back on track.

Recovering from a serious ankle injury at the time the Sox traded for him in '09, Peavy rebounded to go 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three late-season starts. Then he was awful early last season, found his groove in June and blew out in July.

Chicago still is waiting to see the real Jake Peavy ... at least, the one the Sox thought they were getting.

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"That's been a huge part of what's frustrating me," he said. "When I was traded, there was so much anticipation built up. When I finally got out in '09, I was not even close to myself [despite the impressive numbers].

"And that's when all this stuff started. I got so mechanically out of whack."

Peavy is certain he blew out his lat because he came back too soon from the ankle injury. Grimly, he talks of altered mechanics. During his struggles last year, searching for answers, he watched video of himself throwing a shutout in '08.

As the video rolled, Sox pitching coach Don Cooper walked in the room, saw a pitcher with an unfamiliar motion on the television and casually asked, "Who's that?"

"That's me," Peavy replied.

"That's you?" Cooper sputtered back. "You don't look nothing like that now."

"I wasn't even standing on the mound like normal," Peavy told me. "I was hurting from spring camp on last year. What I did took awhile to happen.

"What killed me was me being so stubborn. I wanted to be the guy so bad for the team, for my teammates, for the city."

That's what both Peavy and the White Sox must guard against as the prized right-hander takes what appear to be very large steps back toward the mound.

His rehabilitation throwing program ended at the end of January. When he told Chicago reporters during a conference call Tuesday that he's throwing off of a mound right now at about "60 percent," he didn't mean he was only 60 percent back. Rather, he's resumed his regular training program: In early February before camp opens, he told me, his mound work regularly is at about 60 percent because there's no reason yet to cut loose.

So how does he know he can cut loose?

"I'm throwing almost as hard as I can in long toss," he said. "When you're throwing 120, 150 feet, you can't lob the ball."

He will undergo an MRI exam on Friday in San Diego, and the results will travel with him to Sox camp in Arizona for reading by the Chicago docs early next week in Arizona. Assuming everything is sound structurally, the next step will be to chart his spring routine.

That's where things could get tricky. There's another rehabbing pitcher who lives just down the road from Peavy in San Diego who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, a procedure performed so often today that the rehab routine probably could be found on Mapquest.

"Stephen Strasburg knows every day for the next 100 days exactly what he's going to do," Peavy said. "There's no road map for me. Everything is uncharted territory."

When Eminem and Co. talk of Detroit having been to hell and back in that Super Bowl commercial, Peavy can relate. You bet he's been scared. You bet he's agonized. You bet he's spent a winter of gritting his teeth.

"It was the perfect storm, what happened," Peavy said. "But it did happen, and you live and learn.

"I'm in the best shape of my life. I feel blessed. I'm blessed with a great attitude. I'm thankful to be playing the game of baseball again."

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