In the midst of a conference call Tuesday to update reporters on his status, Jake Peavy heard from an unexpected caller.
"You better be ready for spring training or I will be fired," manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Pitching by the end of spring training shouldn't be a problem, but unlike December, when Peavy told pitching coach Don Cooper that he thought he could be ready by Opening Day, the right-hander backed off that ever so slightly.
Peavy, who had July surgery to reattach a lattisimus dorsi muscle under his right shoulder, offered that if he has to miss some outings at the start of the season it might only be "one or two." He still hasn't backed off his Opening Day goal, though. He also said he is at about "60-70 percent" and is throwing from a mound every three or four days.
"When I get [to spring training] I will either have good results because I worked my rear end off, or if I have bad results there was nothing I could have done different," said Peavy, who was 7-6 with a 4.63 ERA in 17 starts last season. "I will be the guy Ozzie wants me to be sooner rather than later, I know that."
Peavy admitted that as he gradually ramps up his throwing program he feels soreness in the back of his shoulder. But he added that it is the typical soreness associated with this time of the year, and he has not had any issues with his reattached muscle.
Because no pitcher has ever experienced an injury to this extent, Peavy has been taking input on his recovery from anybody who might be of assistance. White Sox coaches and trainers have offered guidance but so have doctors, as well as the surgeons that performed his operation.
"We will sit down during the first week of [spring] camp and map out what I can do," Peavy said. "I'll be the ring leader trying to push the envelope. I'm sure that after what transpired last year [with the injury] those guys will play devil's advocate, and want to take it slow, but we'll find a happy medium."
General manager Kenny Williams was one of those leading voices last season, suggesting that Peavy back off when he was feeling shoulder discomfort. The pitcher ultimately got his way, though, and continued to take the mound before the injury occurred in early July.
"Kenny tried to put the brakes on me hard when I was going through the injury, and I pushed right through those brakes," Peavy said. "When something like that happens, there will be some reservations by those guys to let me go off my word. I understand that, and I need to be reverent to the people I need to be reverent toward."
Before SoxFest last month, Williams addressed the subject of taming Peavy's competitive fire when it comes to rehabbing an injury.
"He's going to absolutely have to prove he's healthy and ready to go out," Williams said. "We want a full season and healthy season, not only for the White Sox this year, but for next year's White Sox, and I don't know how many years are left on his contract."
Another reason Peavy is pushing himself to return quickly is the realization that while Chris Sale has the ability to be a capable rotation fill-in, the young left-hander could prove to be even more valuable in the back of the bullpen. If Sale proves to be a capable closer, one of the biggest questions surrounding the 2011 White Sox would be answered.
"That's a huge swing with where we are with this team," Peavy said. "If I'm healthy and can do what I can, and put Sale in the back end of the bullpen, it makes us a deeper team, and I will try to make that happen. But we have to be smart about how to do things."
Doug Padilla covers the White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000..