BOSTON -- The question that always surfaces when a team such as the Boston Red Sox makes a big move is whether the new acquisition can handle the intensity that comes from playing baseball in a baseball-mad town.
The general consensus on Jake Peavy, acquired late Tuesday in a three-team deal with Chicago and Detroit, is that there will be no issues with the transition. For one, Peavy is a veteran. Also, he has done very well in a big market in Chicago. But there’s more.
“He’s got the attitude that I like,” said David Ortiz, who has thrived in the pressure of this market as well as anyone.
Peavy’s plan is to meet with manager John Farrell and the staff Thursday. He could pitch Saturday at Fenway Park against the Arizona Diamondbacks, when the team expects to see some of what makes the veteran right-hander an exciting addition.
“His competitiveness, this strike-throwing capability,” Farrell said. “As his career’s gone on, he’s made some of the adjustments that every pitcher is going to have to go through as they gain years of experience and years of work.
“The competitive nature that he has. You’re going to see a guy who’s not afraid to talk to himself out there, whether that’s to fire himself up or to rise to the occasion in the moment. He loves to compete and I think his attitude, his personality, will fit as the vast majority of our clubhouse shares the same approach to the game. Just by hearing him speak last night, this has a chance to be an outstanding fit.”
Peavy brings with him an impressive resume, which includes a Cy Young Award in 2007 with San Diego and two ERA crowns in the National League. He won 11 games and posted a solid 3.37 ERA with the White Sox in 2012 and was 8-4 for last-place Chicago this year.
Then there are the injury concerns. The 32-year-old has been no stranger to the disabled list, making just two starts for Chicago since returning from his most recent layoff due to a fractured rib. In addition, he is owed $14.5 million in 2014, making him part of a rotation that could run the organization more than $60 million next season.
General manager Ben Cherington indicated Wednesday that he likes having Peavy under control for 2014, regardless of the cost, as it helps keep the stable of quality young arms on the farm to develop for one more year without any urgency to test them at the major league level. Peavy will be among those who can set an example for those youngsters.
But while this is a move that could have benefits in 2014, the move was made with the clear intent to win now.
“We were fine with what we had, but the front office just made us better,” first baseman Mike Napoli said.
Pitching coach Juan Nieves is perhaps more familiar with Peavy than anyone in the Red Sox organization, having served as his pitching coach for four years in Chicago. He too is confident in the new acquisition’s makeup.
“The ultimate warrior,” Nieves said. “Competes every pitch, gives everything he has and leaves it on the field. Good teammate, he’ll fit in really well here.
“I’ll tell you one thing, his command is impeccable. He doesn’t walk anybody, he keeps the ball inside the ballpark. He commands four or five pitches. He’s very solid, and like I said before, I think his biggest strength is his demeanor, his competitiveness and his will to win every game and stay as long as possible. He wants to pitch longer than the other guy so if the other guy happens to be a short outing, he wants to be in there the whole game. So it’s wonderful to see him compete.”
In addition to Nieves, Peavy has been around several members of the Red Sox before. He was a teammate of Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino on the United States roster in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Ortiz got to know him in 2004 as part of the MLB team that played in the All-Star Series in Japan that year.
“Just a great guy,” Ortiz said. “Actually, I remember I watched him warming up in the bullpen one time because in Japan you kind of warm up in the cage the field we were at. So I was kind of behind the cage watching him warm up and I told him, ‘Man, you’re going to win the Cy Young one day.’ And the following year he won it. He’s got good stuff, man.”
Ortiz was actually off by a couple of years on Peavy’s Cy Young season, but it doesn’t matter. The confidence that exists in Peavy’s pedigree runs rampant throughout an invigorated clubhouse.
“I know when I faced him at the time I was hitting the ball really well, a lot of guys were staying away from me,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who will soon become very familiar with Peavy’s arsenal. “His approach was just kind of come hard in on me. That takes a guy who knows what he’s doing.”
There’s risk with every move, but the Sox are in a situation such that they did not want to bring in someone who doesn’t know what he is doing. That kind of stuff doesn’t float very long in Boston. If the reaction of Peavy’s teammates and coaches is any indication, it’s a nonissue.