CHICAGO -- It appeared to be an epic battle, at least in the context of the 2009 Major League Baseball season, between two of the game's most talented starting pitchers.

Jake Peavy, arguably the most significant pickup by any team prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, was acquired by the White Sox from San Diego and looked primed to return to action on Aug. 28 at Yankee Stadium.

The right-hander would be coming back from a nearly three-month absence due to a strained tendon in his right ankle to work the series opener against the best team in baseball, with staff ace CC Sabathia on schedule to be on the mound for the Bronx Bombers.

Well, Sabathia still should be pitching in that first game of a three-game weekend set, but Peavy won't be there. In fact, Peavy wouldn't commit to any specific date for a big league return when talking to the media at U.S. Cellular Field following the White Sox 4-2 victory over the Royals on Wednesday.

"I don't think that's smart," Peavy said. "When I go out and I'm able to get six, seven innings under my belt, feeling good, knowing I'm able to execute a pitch in the seventh as well as I can do it in the first, and throw the ball where I want to at 100 percent, when I see that day, we're going to go from there.

"It's too early. I haven't talked to [White Sox athletic trainer] Herm [Schneider] or Coop [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper]. I spoke to [general manager] Kenny [Williams] briefly and putting a specific date seems to put too much pressure."

Prior to Peavy's Minor League rehab start Tuesday at Durham, the Rays' Triple-A affiliate, the set timetable seemed to have Peavy making one more rehab start at Gwinnet on Sunday and then potentially being ready for a return on Aug. 28. Of course, that timetable was written in pencil and subject to change at any time.

Remember, Peavy has not pitched since June 8 for the Padres. But of greater importance, Peavy's injured right ankle was immobilized in a protective boot for seven weeks and he wasn't even able to do any of the basic workout maneuvers, such as running or lifting weights.

As Peavy pointed out on Wednesday, the only time that sort of situation plays out for a Major League player is at the start of the offseason. Peavy isn't really experiencing Spring Training right now, as much as he finds himself in a state before Spring Training.

"Obviously, this is unchartered territory for anybody," Peavy said. "Nobody just comes off from not doing anything and tries to jump on a mound and pitch. I got to be smart about it, but I certainly want to be out there as soon as I can.

"He's feeling good and trying to turn up the intensity," said Cooper of Peavy. "He doesn't feel the command and the intensity are meeting. That's kind of to be expected. That's what you are trying to get accomplished, to get the intensity and the stuff up."

Peavy worked four innings Tuesday night and wasn't as sharp, results-wise, as his first rehab appearance last Thursday against Pawtucket. Peavy yielded three earned runs on five hits over four innings, including Joe Dillon's home run. He struck out five.

Next on the rehab agenda is at least two more starts for Peavy, most likely on Aug. 23 and 28. Cooper said those dates could be altered to give Peavy extra recovery time in between trips to the mound.

"We've had two trips at it," said Cooper of Peavy's rehab starts. "I don't care who you are or how good you are at anything you do. You take the amount of time he took off, it's going to take a little while to get it back.

"I'm not sitting here biting my nails and waiting for him because we are going to do this right. Whether he comes back on the 30th or the 3rd [of September] or the 8th, I sit here right now and I'm going to let that unfold. He's going to give us much of the answers."

Manager Ozzie Guillen also seems in full agreement with Peavy's pragmatic and somewhat cautious comeback approach.

"He knows what he's doing. He knows what he needs to do to get ready," Guillen said. "I just want him to know he has to be patient. I know he's desperate to pitch at the big league level once again. I don't want him to get here and have a setback, for any reason.

"As long as he's on the field healthy, that's good progress. I care less how many strikes, how his progress was, how many runs score, how his day was. As long as he's ready to go on his next start, I feel pretty good about it."

Basically, whenever Peavy is ready, short of a start at Wrigley Field on Sept. 3, he'll be put into action. And there's little doubt in Peavy's mind he will return before the end of the 2009 campaign.

"At the rate we're going, I can't see why I can't," Peavy said. "Everyone says it's Spring Training for me. It's not Spring Training. I haven't lifted weights and I haven't long tossed and got ready like you get ready for Spring Training. I've just jumped in the middle of the fire and trying to help the club win.

"We'll see how it works out. I want to be ready tomorrow, but the truth is I'm not going to be. Am I going to be ready five or 10 days from now? Who knows?"