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Jake Peavy pumped up for his first start Saturday

Jake Peavy had difficult outing Sunday but he’s pumped up for his regular-seasdebut. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Jake Peavy had a difficult outing Sunday, but he’s pumped up for his regular-season debut. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 3, 2012 8:15AM

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — You watch Jake Peavy pitch in and out of trouble for four innings in his last tuneup for the 2012 season, and you wonder how good he can be.

Then you listen to Peavy talk about his next start — Saturday against the American League champion Texas Rangers in the White Sox’ second game of the season — and you’re almost convinced that everything’s going to be OK.

“I told [bench coach] Mark Parent today, ‘I can’t wait to go out Saturday night and compete and worry about nothing but getting Ian Kinsler out to start the game,’ ’’ Peavy said after allowing four runs and seven hits against the Cincinnati Reds.

You envision the extra-large Parent chest-bumping the extra-effusive Peavy on the spot. And you walk away wondering if Peavy can will his way to the 30 starts he plans to make after declaring himself healthy for the first time wearing a Sox uniform.

“I just want him to pitch,’’ manager Robin Ventura said when asked about his expectations for his No. 2 starter after the Sox’ 13-10 victory Sunday. “I’m going to let him go out there and pitch and not worry that he has to guarantee so many starts or anything else. I just want him to go, and if he’s healthy, I’m going to keep him going.’’

There were encouraging aspects to Peavy’s outing, which left him leaving Arizona with an 8.78 ERA. He had the usual good movement on his pitches, and he struck out five and walked one.

But at one point, the Reds were 7-for-14 against him.

“I wish the fastball command would have been better,’’ Peavy said. “I’m very pleased with the breaking ball. There were a lot of swings and misses, slider, changeup, curveball.’’

The low-to-mid-90s fastballs of Peavy’s Cy Young days are more like 89-92 now, but Peavy said he plans to pitch the same way he used to.

“I’m going to try,’’ Peavy said. “That’s the only way I know. That’s the way I was successful. The way I feel close to that is the way I feel here. Mainly, it’s fastball location. I was 91-94 [in San Diego] with a good breaking ball. And when you can throw your breaking ball for strikes and when you have a good one when guys swing and miss it, it makes that fastball a whole lot better. I’ve been watching a lot of old tape, and that’s the guy I want to try to emulate.”

Because he feels well physically a year and a half removed from surgery to reattach a torn lat muscle, all Peavy can think about now is Kinsler, the Rangers’ leadoff man.

“And not ‘Oh, I got this and other stuff going on,’ ’’ he said of physical problems that are not an issue now. “It’s going to be refreshing, and it will make the game fun.’’

It wasn’t so fun when “you show up as healthy as you can and go out and compete and try to win the game and try to figure out a way to get through it,’’ Peavy said. “That’s a bad place to be, and I’ve been there for a few years.”

Peavy gushes with enthusiasm in part because it’s in his get-after-it Alabama DNA and partly because he finally feels good.

Now if he can find a way to pitch well, everybody else will share his enthusiasm.

“Saturday night, there’s no finesse in my game,’’ Peavy said. “I’m going to grab the ball, and once I can figure out my bearings — I was off today — I’m going to find the strike zone, and we’ll find out where we stand.’’

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