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Jake Peavy is the guy to give White Sox a kick in the pants

Right-hander Jake Peavy isn’t afraid speak his mind about how White Sox have been playing recently. | AP

Right-hander Jake Peavy isn’t afraid to speak his mind about how the White Sox have been playing recently. | AP

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Updated: July 23, 2012 7:37AM

Jake Peavy’s fastball might be down a few ticks on the radar gun, but he still brings his mouth with the best of them.

And what’s nice about Peavy’s boots-to-butts talk these days is it resonates in the clubhouse more than it has in the past. He is getting fewer eye rolls and more head nods from teammates.

Then again, calling out the clubhouse when you’re 6-3 with a 2.74 ERA always carries more weight than when you’re heading for your third MRI of the month.

After the White Sox’ 2-1 loss Tuesday to the Cubs — a game in which he pitched his third complete game this season — Peavy let his frustrations out.

‘‘We’ve lost three in a row now, and if we want to be a first-place team, there’s no excuse,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t mean any disrespect, but a team playing the way the Cubs have been playing, we’ve got to beat those teams. Please don’t take that out of context because the Cubs are a big-league team, and you’ve got to show up every night because any team can beat anybody. But teams that we feel we should beat that aren’t playing that well, we’ve got to show up and take advantage of these opportunities. Detroit is coming, and we know Cleveland isn’t going anywhere.’’

No disrespect? None taken by Cubs players. Well, almost none.

‘‘It doesn’t bother me,’’ outfielder Alfonso Soriano said Wednesday about Peavy’s comments. ‘‘But sometimes they see the record and not the players. [Peavy] says that, how he feels we’re not a good team. But we are a good team. The record’s not good, but we have good talent.’’

Second baseman Darwin Barney had a similar view.

‘‘I take that as they’re in first place and we’re in last place,’’ Barney said. ‘‘That’s sports. They’re contending for first place right now, and in their minds they need to beat teams like us that aren’t in first place. As an athlete, stuff like that can hurt, but he has the right to say those things.’’

Credit Peavy for this: In all the calm of the new regime under manager Robin Ventura, he is the storm. Considering the level of baseball the Sox have played the last two weeks, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of a wake-up call.

‘‘Jake is an intense guy that is dedicated to compete and win ballgames,’’ Sox reliever Matt Thornton said. ‘‘He cares about one thing: winning. Doesn’t matter how it happens. When he’s frustrated, he’s going to voice his opinion. He’s that kind of guy.’’

Thornton admitted Peavy is getting more backing in the clubhouse this season because of what he’s doing on the field.

‘‘Yeah, because what Jake has done so far this year has been amazing,’’ Thornton said. ‘‘It’s not like we don’t agree with him. It’s something we all know, but he just tells the media.’’

This will be Peavy’s last season with the Sox. The team won’t pick up its $22 million option, and Peavy won’t be offering a hometown discount to re-sign. So in his eyes, why not lay it all on the line right now with a roster that likely will take a hit in talent this winter, if not sooner?

This is a clubhouse with quiet leadership. That’s all well and good, but someone had to state the obvious at some point.

The Sox have outperformed expectations so far this season, and they can’t let an opportunity to win a weak division such as the American League Central slip away if it’s handed to them.

‘‘We’ve played some really bad baseball, some really good baseball and in between,’’ Thornton said. ‘‘We’re still trying to figure out what kind of team we’ve got.’’

Peavy knows exactly what kind of team the Sox have. One that better get its act together.

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