BOSTON -- Take a deep breath, everyone. Jake Peavy lived up to expectations in his Red Sox debut Saturday night at Fenway Park.
The veteran right-hander was efficient and expressive, limiting the Diamondbacks to two runs on four hits over seven-plus innings. He struck out seven and walked two, picking up the win in Boston's 5-2 triumph over Arizona. He threw 99 pitches (65 strikes) and improved his overall record to 9-4. Peavy, who shouted at himself on the mound at times, never faced more than four batters in a single inning.
"Outstanding debut for us," Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game. "A number of swings and misses with three different pitches -- fastball, cutter and his slider. He was efficient and as advertised. Strong competitor, made a couple of big pitches when he needed to with the exception of the 0-2 [home run] pitch to [Paul] Goldschmidt. An outstanding effort on his part."
After the game, Peavy, a 12-year veteran, said Saturday's start felt like it was his first. In fact, a few times during his postgame press conference, it appeared as though his eyes were tearing up.
"It's always fun to win, I don't care what you win. I don't care if you win at ping pong in the clubhouse, it's fun to win and that's why we all show up to the ballpark every day is to find a way for your team to win," he said. "I can't tell you how excited I was tonight. I told a few guys that I had some nerves and obviously having around 300 starts, I felt like it was one of my first."
After Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington completed a three-team, seven-player trade in order to acquire Peavy on Tuesday night, the transaction was criticized by some in Boston, especially when considering the deal sent defensive wizard Jose Iglesias to Detroit. It was important for Peavy to start strong.
"I think it's probably human nature to think you come over in a well-publicized trade, you want to perform well," Farrell said. "That goes without saying. I think the fact that he's put a quality outing under his belt allows him to settle in here further."
After Peavy allowed a leadoff single to Arizona's Wil Nieves in the top of the eighth inning, Farrell emerged from the dugout to make a pitching change. As Peavy handed the ball to his new manager and walked off the field, most of the 37,941 in attendance gave him a standing ovation. "That's truly, from the bottom of my heart, something I'll never forget," said Peavy, who tipped his cap in recognition of the gesture. "Obviously it wasn't an ideal moment for me giving up the hit there. I felt like I made a good pitch, it was just the wrong pitch there so I was upset giving up the hit. But to be welcomed that way, for them to show their appreciation, I hope every last person in the building knows that from the bottom of my heart ... my family was here tonight. It was something special."
Throughout his first outing with the Red Sox, it was evident how pumped Peavy was on the field. His new teammates appreciate that type of energy. Farrell feels the same way.
"Probably like everybody else in our dugout, it's a breath of fresh air," he said. "It's just raw, competitive spirit. It's new to us, much like Koji [Uehara] was at the beginning of the year. Guys take note of it and they appreciate his 100 percent competitive spirit. It's great."
Now that Peavy is pitching in Boston, he will feel the pressure of a pennant race. But he's prepared for it and believes he can thrive. "I love the pressure and expectations, and I said in my press conference there will be nobody in Boston media-wise, fan-wise, any guys I play with, who will expect any more out of me than I expect out of myself," he said. "That's just a product of how I was raised. I expect a lot of myself in life, period. Being a daddy, being a friend and in life, I think that's just the way I was raised. I'm excited that there's a lot of expectations around the Boston Red Sox and I hope to be a contributing factor and I expect that."
It didn't take long to notice how well Peavy's work ethic and personality fits with this Red Sox team.
"The biggest thing is his reputation, as far as the competiveness he brings, the fire and wanting to win," said Red Sox starter Jon Lester. "He's in a different position than a lot of guys you trade for, as far as a lot more than a two-month rental. It should be fun to have him slotted in there every five days and hopefully he can give us a chance to win every night."
When Peavy arrived in Boston on Thursday, he quickly started to prepare for his start. He spoke at length with Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. It helped that Peavy used to work with current Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves when both were with the Chicago White Sox. One interesting aspect of Peavy's preparation against an opponent is he'll chart pitches the game before his scheduled start by watching in the clubhouse.
"It takes some time," admitted Saltalamacchia. "It's tough with a guy like him who can command so many pitches. At the same time, it's nice because you can call any pitch. I just set up on the corners and let him make his pitches how he wanted to. With his ability, he's just such a competitor."
He's also legally blind.
It's astonishing Peavy continues to perform given his eyesight. When he arrived in Boston, he discussed the fact that he has 20/300 vision and needs to wear corrective lenses in order to pitch with 20/40 vision. Knowing that about his new batterymate, Saltalamacchia made every effort to make Peavy's first start in Boston a comfortable one. It's normal for catchers to paint their fingernails white during night games in order to help pitchers see the signs. To make sure Peavy had no issues Saturday night, Saltalamacchia went the extra mile and added different colored stickers on his fingers.
"He has trouble seeing and the darker it got, I think the harder it was with the shadows and stuff," explained Saltalamacchia. "So, I started out with the white and then started doubling up with the yellows and greens and trying to get as many bright colors as I could. But when he's throwing the ball as well as he is, it really didn't matter."
Ironically, the Diamondbacks almost landed Peavy prior to the deadline before the Red Sox swooped in and completed the deal. The pitcher actually has a few connections with the D-backs. Current Arizona GM Kevin Towers served in the same role with San Diego when Peavy pitched for the Padres. Also, Arizona manager Kirk Gibson co-owns a ranch with Peavy.
"I know there were some significant talks and I did, at some point and time [think about going to Arizona]," Peavy said. "The Boston thing came back around late and kind of quiet until it was almost done. So, I did give some thought to being reunited with Kevin.
"I was pretty abreast on what was going on [with Arizona] and it was getting hot, but I'm very excited to be on this side and tonight as well."
Peavy's first game in a Red Sox uniform went well. And, if the rest of his outings in 2013 -- and beyond -- are equally good, then Cherington should get a tip of the cap for not hesitating on making this deal.