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2011 White Sox: Jake Peavy Is Their Bottom Line

Jake Peavy knows he's the key to the Sox pitching staff this year.

There's nothing but transparency about Jake Peavy.

Like the late afternoon, a few weeks after his unusual shoulder surgery last season, when he displayed color video of the operation on his laptop for an astonished group of reporters in the Sox clubhouse. The surgery was gory and bloody, but at the same time fascinating.

So why should he change as he goes through a grueling rehab designed to get him back on the mound as early as possible in the 2011 season? Peavy knows what he means to the Sox. He's the bottom line of the season -- his return to the mound, and then effectiveness, separates the Sox from being a clear-cut favorite in the American League Central to desperately fighting with the Twins and Tigers for the meat a'cookin' on Oct. 1.

Peavy, as usual, says it all himself.

"If I’m healthy and back to doing what I’m able to do, we can put Chris Sale in the back of the bullpen," he said, playfully taunting reporters in the frozen north about his just-completed throwing workout in San Diego in 68-degree weather.

"That makes us a better team. We’re a deep staff."

But to do that, Peavy needs to fully recover from the torn lat muscle, an injury nobody had ever diagnosed in a pitcher -- and nobody had ever conducted surgery to repair. His first words on Tuesday were encouraging, but there will be some last words needed on the issue two months from now.

"I do not feel my lat whatsoever," he said.  "I feel blessed I have not felt anything."

The jury will still be out until Peavy can cut loose against hitters in spring training. Although the Sox medical staff has given him passing marks so far on a rehab program that eliminated any down time in the off-season, he can't be sure of anything yet. There will be doubters, including the orthopedic guy I talked to last summer who projected Peavy would return as... Freddy Garcia. Yeah, robbed of his blazing fastball.

"It’s hard to gauge speed without being in a game," Peavy said. "When  a batter is in there and you got to get him out, you put more on the ball. I’m not too worried about trying to put up good numbers in spring training. You want to have some effectiveness. Mid-March I better have some arm strength."

He'll have a follow-up MRI exam to see how much progress he's made. He's never worked harder with more distractions in his life. The workouts-without-end have dovetailed with attending to a father who has been in and out of the hospital in his native Alabama.

"Bottom line, stuff like this makes you a stronger person," Peavy said.  "It makes you more appreciative. I got a ton of motivation to get back on the field."