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Peavy hopes to be ready for opener

Updated: February 8, 2011 2:45PM

Jake Peavy is a long shot to be ready by Opening Day, but the White Sox right-hander said nothing Tuesday to ruin the hope that he’ll return to his No. 1 starter form.

Peavy told reporters via conference call from San Diego that he has experienced only normal offseason soreness as he recovers from surgery. Continuing with his usual offseason throwing program, Peavy played long toss and threw 40 pitches off a mound Tuesday morning and says he feels good.

“I’d say I’m 60-70 percent off the mound,” Peavy said.

Asked when he’ll pitch again in a regular-season game, Peavy said, “to answer that would be tough, but you know me...I have certainly pushed it as much as I can while listening to my body to make sure I don’t jeopardize anything. I want to come in to camp like the other guys and be ready for Opening Day.”

During the Sox’ first week of spring training -- pitchers and catchers report next Thursday -- Peavy will have an MRI on the area where a lattisimus dorsi muscle was reattached under his right shoulder. After that, a spring training plan will be mapped out for the 29-year-old former National League Cy Young Award winner. The first real sign of his effectiveness won’t come until he pitches in a spring training game.

All things considered -- risk of coming back too soon from an unusual injury, playing 28 of the first 32 games in “cold weather” cities and Peavy’s value and salary -- it might make sense to ease him into the rotation in May.

“If I miss a start or two, that’s what it is,” Peavy said.

“I’ll be the ring leader, pushing the envelope and make sure I’m ready as soon as possible. I’m sure they will play devil’s advocate and have me take it slow.”

Peavy finished a three-month throwing program on Jan. 31. He worked out daily, even throwing on Christmas.

“When I get to spring training, there will have been no leaf unturned,” Peavy said.

General manager Ken Williams has said caution will be exercised with Peavy, the Sox’ highest paid player at $16 million in 2011 and $17 million in 2012.

“He’s going to absolutely prove that he is healthy and ready to go out there,” Williams said during SoxFest. “We want a full season and a healthy season for this year and whatever is left on his contract.’’

Peavy’s status looms as the biggest issue as the Sox prepare for a promising season. His health will help determine whether Chris Sale starts or goes back to the bullpen.

“That is a huge question, a huge swing either way it goes with our team,” Peavy said. “If I am healthy and able to do what I do and we have Chris Sale at the back end of our bullpen it makes us a deeper and better team. I want that to happen. At the same time, we have to be smart about when we do things.’’

Peavy’s health is a big deal, so big that manager Ozzie Guillen listened in on the conference call and yanked Peavy’s chain.

“You better be ready for spring training or I’m going to get fired,” Guillen said.

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