On the heels of the most eventful spring of his young career, Jake Peavy is primed for his first Opening Day assignment as ace of the Padres' staff, having already pitched a memorable opener.

"I'm where I want to be, right on schedule," Peavy said. "I feel a little stronger than I normally would this time of year."

An All-Star in 2005 for the first time, adding a National League strikeout title to go with his 2004 ERA crown, the 24-year-old right-hander prepared for his Monday date with San Francisco at PETCO Park with two appearances for Team USA in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, followed by a pair of Cactus League tuneups.

Knowing he was ticketed to start the Classic opener for the red, white and blue against Mexico, Peavy stepped up his training program at home in Mobile, Ala.

He reported to camp in mid-February about 10 pounds heavier, having added muscle tone to his upper body, and began throwing in earnest without pain in the ribs he'd fractured in October.

Saying he was "fully healed and ready to go," Peavy clearly was ahead of the game during his first Spring Training throwing session, attended by Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley and bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds.

"His delivery looked better than it usually does early in spring," Balsley said. "Normally it takes him a couple sessions in Spring Training to get his mechanics down -- and he looked pretty solid.

"He's a little bigger, a little stronger. No matter what he does, Jake competes. He wants to be ready for this. It's hard to tell off one session, but he looked good."

Peavy pitched capably in the Classic, working three scoreless innings in the opening win over Mexico and going five innings in a victory over Japan, yielding three earned runs on five hits, walking one and striking out three.

His satisfaction was tempered somewhat when Team USA was unable to reach the final round in his home ballpark. Mexico came back to beat the Americans in a rematch, enabling eventual champion Japan to move on to the semifinals.

"The intensity of those games was even [higher] than regular-season games," Peavy said. "I knew I was going to get back and have at least a start or two. It was good to get back with the boys and get started. I really like what we have here.

"We have a lot of new faces around here, and that's exciting, in a sense. The [National League West] is going to be a great division this year, so we have our work cut out for us trying to repeat."

Peavy's biggest immediate challenge -- aside from the Giants' offense -- is developing a rapport with the club's new catchers, veterans Mike Piazza and Doug Mirabelli.

Peavy spent the past two seasons throwing primarily to Ramon Hernandez, who departed for Baltimore via free agency.

"That always takes a little time, getting comfortable with each other," said manager Bruce Bochy, who formed a lot of pitching bonds in his career as a catcher. "Mike and Doug are guys who have been around and handled some quality pitching staffs, so they'll work it out.

"I don't worry about Jake. He's going to do whatever it takes to be successful."

Pitching through an assortment of ailments, including several of the freak nature, Peavy was 13-7 in '05 with a 2.88 ERA.

With better run support, he easily could have surpassed his 15-win total (against six losses) of '04, when his 2.27 ERA was baseball's best.

Peavy's 216 strikeouts in 203 innings last season made him the league leader, but he'd just as soon strike out fewer men, getting outs earlier in counts.

"I'm out there to get outs, any way I can," he said.

Peavy's arsenal includes two-seam and four-seam fastballs, getting into the 94 mph range, along with a hard-biting slider and a changeup that can be devastating.

Peavy is 6-3 with a 3.31 career ERA against the Giants. He was 1-0 in three starts against them last season, fashioning a 1.71 ERA.

In the matchup sure to attract everyone's attention, Peavy has a fair share of success against Barry Bonds.

The Giants superstar is a .250 career hitter against Peavy with all five of his hits -- three homers and two doubles -- for extra bases, picking up four RBIs. Bonds has 11 walks and five strikeouts against the Padres' ace.

Pitching matchup
SF: RHP Jason Schmidt
• 12-7, 4.40 ERA in 2005
• 0-2, 7.58 ERA in 2005 vs. SD
• 10-8, 4.76 ERA lifetime vs. SD

SD: RHP Jake Peavy
• 13-7, 2.88 ERA in 2005
• 1-0, 1.71 ERA in 2005 vs. SF
• 6-3, 3.31 ERA lifetime vs. SF

  Padres probable lineup
 Pos.Name
1.CFDave Roberts
2.SSKhalil Greene
3.RFBrian Giles
4.CMike Piazza
5.3BVinny Castilla
6.1BAdrian Gonzalez
7.LFTerrmel Sledge
8.2BJosh Barfield
9.PJake Peavy

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• SF: FSN, ESPN2
• SD: Ch. 4, ESPN2

On radio
• SF: KNBR 680
• SD: XPRS AM 1090, XEMO 860 AM (Español)

On deck
• Tuesday: vs. San Francisco, 7:05 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: vs. San Francisco, 7:05 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Off-day