The swirling trade rumors can be dealt with another day. For White Sox starter Jake Peavy, Saturday afternoon might as well be Opening Day all over again.
Back from a fractured left rib that sidelined him for over six weeks, Peavy will take the mound for the first time since June 4 as the White Sox take on the Braves at U.S. Cellular Field. After throwing 90 pitches in a five-inning rehab start for Double-A Birmingham on Sunday, Peavy will return with his team mired in an even bigger hole in the American League Central than they were when he went down with the injury.
"I feel like a little kid getting turned back loose on the playground after having a couple of broken legs," Peavy said. "I feel excited as if it was Opening Day. Excited to get back out, but at the same time, you know you've got to be smart with knowing that my feel is probably not quite up to par with what it is and obviously stamina, but that's something we're working on and we'll monitor closely [Saturday]."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said while Peavy would not be on a strict pitch count, the right-hander would be monitored closely after the extended layoff.
"It wasn't anything to do with his arm or anything like that," Ventura said on Friday. "He's pretty good at letting you know how he's doing. As long as his rib is doing fine, he can stay in there."
Peavy left his June 4 start against the Mariners after just 2 1/3 innings with the fractured rib, and the White Sox are 13-23 since, dropping well off the pace in the division.
Paul Maholm will start off his second half seeking his team-leading 10th win in the city where he spent the first half of 2012 as a member of the Cubs' rotation. The left-hander has given up at least one run in the first inning of each of his past three starts and will be looking to turn around his misfortune away from Turner Field. Maholm holds a 5.37 ERA with 27 walks in 12 road starts this season, a considerable dropoff from his 1.93 ERA with seven walks in seven home starts.
"If you looked at my home record and all that I've done at home, I'd probably be a leading candidate for a lot of awards," Maholm said after walking five batters in his last start, a 6-2 loss to the Marlins. "Obviously, we have to take everything into account. I haven't done as well as I've wanted on the road."
Braves: Healing stars set to return
• Justin Upton was the first of four ailing Braves outfielders to return to the lineup, starting in right field and collecting a pair of hits on Friday night after missing two games with a left calf strain.
Fellow corner outfielder Jason Heyward appears to be close behind, while B.J. Upton and Jordan Schafer's returns are a little further off.
Heyward and the Uptons went down with injuries in the first two games of the team's final series before the All-Star break against the Reds. Heyward exited with a right hamstring strain on Thursday, and then B.J. Upton left early in Friday's game with a strained right adductor muscle before Justin pulled up limping a few innings later. During that same series, the team announced that Schafer had sustained a stress fracture in his right foot after fouling a ball off his right foot on June 26 and would miss an additional month.
The earliest date that B.J. Upton can return from the 15-day disabled list would be July 28 against the Cardinals. Schafer joined the team in Chicago, but will not travel with the team for its next series against the Mets, heading to Atlanta instead to have another MRI.
• First baseman Freddie Freeman entered in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement on Friday and was expected to be available for the rest of the weekend series. Freeman missed the final game before the break and did not participate in the All-Star Game after jamming his left thumb making a tag at first base.
Freeman came away unscathed from an unnerving collision with Adam Dunn on Friday after Dan Uggla's throw to first pulled him up the first-base line and into Dunn's path.
White Sox: Phegley back in lineup
• Thanks to the All-Star break, rookie catcher Josh Phegley did not have to miss any games after taking a foul ball off his right index finger in the ninth inning of the final game before the break. Phegley went 0-for-3 on Friday -- the first of his eight Major League starts in which he did not record a hit.
"They make adjustments and you have to be able to make adjustments," Ventura said before Friday's game. "He's been making them little by little. You can see good in-game adjustments. It's just part of playing. You have to learn how to do it."
• Former reliever Shingo Takatsu, who picked up 27 saves over parts of two seasons with the White Sox, will throw out one of the ceremonial first pitches and sign autographs before Saturday's game. Takatsu posted a 2.31 ERA over 59 games during his 2004 rookie campaign and pitched for the '05 World Series champions.
• Peavy is 2-4 in seven career starts against Atlanta with a 3.97 ERA, his third-highest against a National League team.
• Braves catcher Brian McCann has homered in three consecutive games after his tiebreaking three-run blast in Friday night's 6-4 victory.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.