Jake Peavy spent parts of five years as a member of the White Sox, and acknowledges that the experience of pitching against Chicago -- which sent him to the Red Sox as part of a three-team deal with the Tigers on July 30 -- will feel foreign. But even as he prepares to face close friends like Adam Dunn, Peavy feels no confusion of purpose.
"On Saturday, it's straight business. None of them would take this the wrong way, but I do not like the opposition," said the right-hander. "On Saturday, there won't be any text messaging. There won't be hanging out before the game. We'll play the game, and we'll play it right and hard, and I'll try with everything I've got to beat them and I'm sure they'll do the same, and then we'll go to dinner afterwards and all be friends again. You've got to draw that line at some point in time. I expect to win Saturday."
That is precisely the sort of approach that the Red Sox expected from Peavy when they dealt for him, and he has come as advertised so far. In five starts, the 32-year-old is 2-1 with a 3.31 ERA, 20 strikeouts and just five walks in 32 2/3 innings. It would be hard to imagine a transition to a new team going more smoothly.
That is particularly true in comparison with what Peavy went through the previous time that he'd been dealt. In 2009, the White Sox made an unsuccessful attempt to deal for the 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner, who exercised his no-trade rights to veto a deal to Chicago. However, then-White Sox GM Kenny Williams remained persistent and made another effort to land Peavy at the trade deadline -- at a time when the pitcher was amidst what was believed to be a season-ending stint on the DL due to damaged ankle ligaments.
The trade to the Red Sox had little shock value. The possibility had been in the rumor mill for weeks. The trade to Chicago (for Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Adam Russell and Dexter Carter) represented something dramatically different.
"It was very surprising how it all went down," Peavy recalled. "I turned down a deal to the White Sox earlier that year, around the end of May, the reason being I wasn't 100 percent sure at that time that I'd have to leave San Diego. That was a place that I dearly loved. We were in a better situation in the standings than they were at the time. I turned that trade down to Chicago, but certainly weighed all the options and put them in front of me -- knew about the city and about the ball club.
"I guess about 20 minutes before [the deadline in 2009], I was actually laying down and got a call from Barry Axelrod [Peavy's agent]. He said, 'Hey, man, you want to go here?' I said, 'Do they know I'm done for the year?' I got on the phone with Kenny Williams, and he said, 'I want you these next three [years -- for which Peavy was under contract]. I'm excited about what you bring.' At that point in time, I knew that I was going to try to get healthy in the winter, prove that I was healthy, and that the Padres had to move me. There was no other way with the payroll to keep my contract. If we hadn't thought about all that, I couldn't have said yes in 15 minutes. It was an exciting time and I loved my time in Chicago."
However, the start of Peavy's tenure in Chicago couldn't have represented a much more drastic contrast with what has transpired in the opening stages of his Boston career.
Peavy was still rehabbing when the White Sox acquired him. He started a minor league rehab assignment in mid-August, made four minor league starts and then got shut down for another three weeks. However, the White Sox were still clinging to hopes of contending at that point, and so on Sept. 19, with Chicago 6 1/2 games behind the White Sox and 3 1/2 behind the Twins, Peavy made his way back to the mound.
The results were impressive. He earned a win that day, and ended up making three starts -- earning victories in each -- while forging a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings.
Little did Peavy or the White Sox realize that he had laid the groundwork for the derailment of his career. His desperation to make good on Chicago's faith in him set in motion a series of events that prevented him from being the pitcher whom whom the White Sox had dealt.
"I think it was more me personally trying to justify the trade. They'd just given up four players, three in the big leagues, and I was a little younger then, probably trying to justify it more on a personal note," Peavy acknowledged. "It was awful for me -- I got traded being hurt, I don't know any of the trainers. At that point in time, I was so excited to be in Chicago, and I wanted so badly to be the guy they wanted me to be physically, I wasn't able to come back and compete."
But he tried.
"About 11 days out of a cast, I was on the mound. The White Sox were in a pennant race, and they were all about, let's get this thing healthy and get you out there. Of course, I was all about that as well," said Peavy. "I pushed it, and probably pushed it too fast. I got on the mound and my ankle was week. I'd been in a cast for a few months. I came back and I pitched three games there. I won all three, pitched very well, but I was nowhere close to myself.
"I didn't realize it at the time, and nor did [White Sox pitching coach] Don Cooper because he hadn't seen me -- we'd been in different leagues, I was a different guy and changed so much mechanically. I wasn't using my back leg at all. I was standing very tall. My arm angle had almost about a foot difference."
Peavy was throwing over the top rather than from his signature low three-quarters angle. But he'd been successful in doing so, and so, when the right-hander showed up to spring training with the White Sox the next year, he was surprised to hear encouragement from Cooper to "stay tall, get on the ball." Peavy, eager to please, tried to show that he was able to implement the suggestions. The consequences were severe.
"In spring training of 2010, I had my first cortisone shot -- my shoulder had just started barking immediately from me throwing. We now know that I was throwing with different mechanics. And when your shoulder is hurting, you're doing something different from what you've done your whole life," said Peavy. "I started the season, it was just a terrible start. I couldn't throw the ball where I wanted to. And I remember telling my agent and my family, 'My stuff is just not the same. I don't know if I'm just getting to that age.' I had no history against the teams I was pitching against."
The difficulty was compounded because Peavy opened the year against teams with whom he had little familiarity -- the Indians, Blue Jays and Indians. His lack of prior experience pitching against opponents in a new league meant that he had little video to consult when preparing for games.
He got off to a terrible start. He was 3-4 with a 6.05 ERA through 10 starts. As he prepared for a May 30 start against the Rays -- a team that had crushed him for seven runs in 4 1/3 innings in April -- he studied video from a 2007 outing against Tampa Bay that resulted in seven shutout innings.
The video offered a eureka moment -- albeit one that came a bit too late.
"I was down watching the video, and [then-White Sox bullpen coach and current Red Sox pitching coach] Juan Nieves was actually in the video room as well. He and Don Cooper saw me watching me on the screen, and said, 'Holy cow, that's you? You don't look anything like that. Let's put the split screen up there,' " Peavy recalled. "So looking at me and me on the split screen, you wouldn't even think it was the same guy if you took the jersey off my back. It was a huge relief to me at the time, but unfortunately, I'd done enough damage to my arm at the time that it was really hurting."
There was considerable improvement on the mound when Peavy returned to his old mechanics. In his next six outings, he had a 1.67 ERA.
But the damage had been done. Peavy's mechanical alterations positioned him to blow out his lat in a start against the Angels on July 6. He missed the rest of that season and the first month-plus of 2011, and by the time he got back to the mound in 2011, Peavy wasn't physically ready to be something similar to the same pitcher he'd been at his San Diego peak.
It wasn't until 2012 that Peavy finally emerged as the starting presence for whom the White Sox hoped they were trading. Though he went 11-12 in the absence of run support, the right-hander had a 3.37 ERA with 219 innings with 8.0 strikeouts and just 2.0 walks per nine innings, marks that earned him an All-Star nod.
While there had been challenges over the course of his time in Chicago, Peavy had grown to embrace the city and organization, and so agreed quickly to a two-year, $29 million deal with the White Sox before testing free agency last October.
"I think it says a lot about the relationship -- my relationship with the White Sox -- that 2010 and 2011 were such stressful years and you felt like they couldn't wait to get you out of town, and then after the 2012 season, they don't want you to get to free agency," said Peavy. "They wanted to talk and had me back. I think that speaks a lot for how our relationship grew in Chicago. I think the world of everyone over there."
But when Chicago was nowhere close to contending this year, Peavy was ready for another deal, this time to the Red Sox. And the circumstances surrounding this relocation have been drastically different than the ones that accompanied his move from San Diego to Chicago four years ago.
He has the comfort of a pitching coach in Nieves who possesses and exhaustive knowledge of his mechanics. He has a more secure understanding of himself as a pitcher, and what he needs to do to be good. Most importantly, rather than being at a point of physical transition in his career, Peavy is healthy and positioned to succeed on the mound.
"I couldn't be any more excited to feel as good as I feel now," said Peavy. "I'm at a different place in time now [than when the White Sox deal occurred]. I don't feel like I have to justify [the trade to the Red Sox].
"Maybe as you get older, you find peace. I'm very at peace with my career and where I'm at in life," he added. "I'm going to go out with every last thing I've got, do everything I can possibly do, to help the Boston Red Sox win. At the end of the day, that's all I can do. I'm going to put more pressure on myself than any fan, coach or front office member could possibly put on me. I put that on myself to perform."
For the Red Sox and Peavy, that has been more than enough to this point in the pitcher's Boston tenure.