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White Sox believe deep staff will make them contenders this season

Jake Peavy

Jake Peavy

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Updated: March 1, 2013 7:16PM

While getting lost in the feel-good nostalgia of 1983 and 2005, the White Sox pitched the notion at SoxFest over the weekend that they will find their way to division-winning contention in 2013 despite losing A.J. Pierzynski, Kevin Youkilis and Brett Myers from a team that owned first place for 117 days in 2012.

Those important pieces will be replaced by Tyler Flowers and free agents Jeff Keppinger and Matt Lindstrom.

And just how does that make the Sox better than 85 wins? Relying on a healthy John Danks and counting on all of those rookies being a little bit better than last year, the Sox told their fans to pin their hopes on a pitching staff that general manager Rick Hahn said “one through 12 matches up with anybody in the league.’’ That would include a bullpen that coach Bobby Thigpen said can be “the best in baseball.’’

Neither statement seems too far-fetched.

A rotation of All-Stars Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, 2012 Opening Day starter John Danks, Gavin Floyd (one of four American League pitchers along with David Price, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver with double-digit wins in each of the last five seasons) and Jose Quintana (3.76 ERA as a rookie) will read pretty nice when the 2013 baseball previews come out in March.

But the devil’s advocates who buy those reduced-priced tickets the Sox are offering — and there were droves of glass-half-empty Sox skeptics roaming the Palmer House Hilton at SoxFest — also can label each starter as iffy for all sorts of reasons: Sale’s slight build and arm action make him an injury risk, Peavy’s past health problems, Danks coming off shoulder surgery, Floyd’s inconsistencies and Quintana’s fade in the second half of his rookie season.

The fact of the matter is, every pitching staff is fair game for being picked apart in the same way. Other teams asked the Sox about their ‘‘surplus’’ of pitching during the offseason, and I like that Hahn, while watching the Tigers, Royals and Indians get better through free-agent signings and trades, didn’t deal from his strength. If you’re going to be strong in one area, pitching is where it’s at.

“If you got pitching, you have a chance,’’ executive vice president and former GM Ken Williams said. “We can be talking about 2013 or 1913 or 2030. That’s still going to be the determining factor in baseball.’’

That’s why Hahn made sure Peavy didn’t get away. Somehow, he got him back for two years plus a conditional player option for a third for less money than Peavy could’ve pocketed on the open market.

“We knew going into this thing that the free-agent market would be like it was,’’ said Peavy, who signed for $29 million over two seasons. “I knew signing like I signed, there was going to be a day where you watched Zack Greinke [$147 million for six years] and Edwin Jackson [$52 million, four years] . . . with huge paydays,” Peavy said. “That just wasn’t what I was after. I was after being where I’m comfortable.

“There’s a sense personally here for me and team-wise that there’s unfinished business. There’s no other place I’d rather win, and it would be special to win here after the bittersweet ending last year. After what I’d been through injury-wise, to be a part of that on the South Side would be the sweetest part of it.”

Sentiments such as that — coupled with enough pitching to give the Sox a realistic chance — fueled the SoxFest sales machine. Despite lowering prices for most of their tickets (high-end seats went up in price), Hahn promised he’ll have money to spend and flexibility to move as Williams did last summer when Youkilis, Myers and Francisco Liriano were added to the playoff drive without giving away key prospects.

While those additions didn’t put the Sox in the postseason, hoping to be in that same position this summer will probably have to do.

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