CHICAGO — Jake Peavy will be best remembered for the eight seasons he spent with the San Diego Padres. The righthander won the Cy Young Award in 2007, twice made the All-Star team, and averaged nine strikeouts per nine innings.
The Padres made the playoffs just twice during Peavy’s tenure but he is one of the more accomplished pitchers in team history.
Peavy also has a duck boat being refurbished at his home in Alabama, an expensive souvenir of helping the Red Sox win the World Series last fall. Though acquired in a trade in late July, Peavy quickly became part of the fabric of a close-knit team. Those memories will shine, too.
Wedged in the middle of his career are the five seasons Peavy played with the Chicago White Sox. There were five stints on the disabled list, a change in managers, and satisfaction only in 2012 when Peavy again made the All-Star team and the White Sox contended until the final days of the season.
Now Peavy returns and will start for the Red Sox on Tuesday night against rookie Erik Johnson.
“I’m looking forward to it, I really am,” Peavy said. “It wasn’t always perfect but I’m happy that I was there. I made some great friends.”
Peavy embraced Chicago, buying a home there and developing close ties to the front office and owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Chicago designated hitter Adam Dunn became one of his closest friends.
Peavy beat the White Sox Aug. 31 at Fenway Park, allowing two runs over seven innings. He faced Dunn three times and retired him all three times.
“It’s different,” Peavy said. “I don’t have many hitters around the league I’m as close to as this guy. This guy is like my family. He’s like facing a brother. It’s a little bit different.”
Peavy also had a close relationship with White Sox ace Chris Sale, a 25-year-old lefthander he helped mentor. The two have exchanged text messages in recent days with Sale joking that he would rather face Peavy on Tuesday instead of Jon Lester on Thursday.
“I told Chris Sale that, too,” Peavy said. “I said, ‘Hey, man, I know you wanted Old Man Peavy. But you’re going to get our lefthander Thursday night. If you want to be the best lefthander in the league, you’ve got to surpass this guy that we’re throwing at you.”
Peavy plans to spend time with Dunn and other friends while he is here. Peavy won’t see many fans, however. The White Sox are averaging just under 18,000 and raw weather is forecast.
Still, Peavy remains upbeat.
“It’s exciting to go back to US Cellular and see so many familiar faces,” Peavy said. “Be fun going back to see the old faces and reunite and catch up on some friendships. Other than that, Tuesday night at 7 o’clock will be business.”
Peavy has pitched well this season, having allowed three runs on nine hits over 12⅔ innings in two starts. With the Red Sox losing three of four against the Yankees in New York, another strong start is needed.
“I promise you this: I’ll be comfortable on that mound because I’ve been out there so many times,” Peavy said.
Peavy didn’t ask for a trade from Chicago. But with the White Sox rebuilding last season he understood the reasoning.
“I did want to do what was best for the franchise and that was the best thing for everybody,” he said. “It was the best thing for me, it was the best thing for the Chicago White Sox moving forward. You certainly understand the business of the game.”
Peavy was traded to the Red Sox July 30 as part of a three-team, seven-player deal. The Red Sox sent shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Detroit Tigers and three prospects to the White Sox to make the deal happen.
The Tigers gave up outfielder Avisail Garcia, who went to Chicago, and sent righthanded reliever Brayan Villarreal to the Red Sox.
The Red Sox sought Peavy for the immediate purpose of strengthening their rotation in preparation for the postseason, which he did. But the trade continues to favor the Red Sox. Garcia suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last week and Iglesias could miss the entire season with stress fractures in both legs.
“That’s obviously sad to see,” Peavy said.
Peavy enjoyed his time in Chicago. But he is dreading the weather. It snowed in Chicago on Monday and temperatures at game time on Tuesday will be in the mid-30s, according to forecasts.
“Nobody is comfortable. The thing is, for a starting pitcher, especially when you’ve been through some injuries, that weather’s the toughest to pitch in,” Peavy said. “You go out and get loose, you come in, and you could sit for 15 minutes. The later in the game, the tougher that process keeps becoming. It’ll be miserable but it’s something we’ve all done before.”