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Cowley: Peavy can’t wait, but Sox can

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox can’t win without Jake Peavy.

They can hold down April, maybe even get into May without the veteran right-hander, but six months in the American League Central of fighting off Tigers and “Piranhas’’?

Good luck with that.

That’s why there was a certain amount of anxiety Thursday when Peavy, 29, took the mound for a brief throwing session.

When he finished pain-free and feeling like the baby steps earned some toddler shoes, general manager Ken Williams could wipe the sweat from his brow for one more day, knowing he still had 16 million reasons to feel optimistic about 2011.

“The answer to your question is yes,’’ Williams said when asked if he could still see Peavy breaking camp with the major-league team in six weeks. “And we’ve been told, just so everyone knows and it’s not a big story, we have been told to expect a blip in his progress. We’ve been told it won’t be a major blip, but it will be a blip.

“I can see with his performance, with his strength improving, and some persuasiveness, which he has the ability to do, yeah, I can see [him breaking camp at the end of March]. But in my mind right now, I’m hoping we have the luxury to make sure he’s 100 percent in every way, shape or form, but he’ll tell us that.’’

Would he?

That’s where the leap of faith begins.

The number of pitchers to come back after completely detaching the right lat muscle is one. And one with an asterisk because that would be Peavy.

That’s why the Sox and Peavy are on uncharted ground as he plays guinea pig for the sports-medicine world.

The other factor is, this is Jake Peavy we’re talking about. He’s Alabama-stubborn to a fault, the type of person who wants to put his hand in the fire to let you know how hot it is.

So while his MRI exam last Friday was clean, his physical Thursday morning was stellar and his first throwing session in front of the organization in two months was solid, protecting Peavy from Peavy is the big challenge.

“Just what I expected because I’ve been on the mound before,’’ Peavy said after he threw. “Just nice and easy. Fastball, changeup, and the location was good. Just climbing like the other guys are. Just like I said, if anyone was out there, it wasn’t any different than anyone else’s.’’

Peavy then met with manager Ozzie Guillen and Williams right after, and both reminded Peavy of what’s at stake.

“Both of them liked what they saw,’’ Peavy said. “At the same time, they want me to take as much time as I need. They want me to be here for the long haul. They just keep trying to pull the reins back, which is exactly what they’re supposed to do. But I’ll be smart about it. If I feel anything or have any setback, I’ll be honest with them and honest with you guys. As of now, we’re going ahead, and I feel like I’m one of the guys.’’

Too bad Peavy isn’t just one of the guys.

He’s the closest thing to an ace the staff has. Whether he has proved it or not since joining the Sox midway through the 2009 season, he’s the guy you pencil in for Game 1 of the postseason, stats be damned.

In 20 starts with the Sox, he’s 10-6 with a 4.11 ERA, and this for a guy who “hasn’t been mechanically right’’ with the team except for last June, when they finally figured it out and he went 3-2 with a 1.75 ERA.

That’s why he feels like he has so much to prove.

“To be acquired like a front-end guy, I haven’t lived up to that,’’ said Peavy, who will earn $16 million this season. “I have a lot to play for now. I have a lot of motivation to get back on the field.’’

Besides a medical team keeping a close eye on Peavy, the Sox also have the benefit of an April schedule that allows them to limit the No. 5 starter to four outings at the most.

So even if Peavy doesn’t break with the team, starting candidates Phil Humber, Jeff Gray, Lucas Harrell and Charlie Leesman can’t do that much damage.

Until that decision has to be made, however, it will be a lot of watching and listening. Throw in some praying.

“Absolutely,’’ Peavy said when asked if the Sox could contend without him. “I just think that if I get back and I’m healthy, I can certainly be a contributing factor.

“I don’t think one guy on this team can make or break this thing.’’

That’s where he’s wrong.

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