TORONTO — Jhoulys Chacin met the Red Sox at Angel Stadium on Aug. 30 so he could throw in the bullpen with manager Alex Cora, pitching coach Dana LeVangie and a few others watching.
With Chris Sale and David Price unavailable because of injuries, the Red Sox needed a starting pitcher and Chacin was available after being released by the Milwaukee Brewers a week earlier.
“I had no guarantees. They wanted to see me pitch and said maybe they would give me an opportunity,” he said. “I had 30 pitches to show them what I could do.”
Now there’s pressure. But two days later, Chacin had a uniform and what amounted to a lottery ticket.
All he cost the Red Sox was the prorated minimum salary for a month. The Brewers were on the hook for the rest of his salary.
Chacin, 31, was Milwaukee’s Opening Day starter and beat St. Louis. But he won only two more games and saw his earned run average soar to 5.79 before Milwaukee let him go after leaving him on the injured list for a month.
But in three games since joining the Sox, two of them starts, Chacin has pitched 5⅔ innings without allowing a run. He has given up two hits, walked three and struck out seven.
Chacin got up to 48 pitches on Thursday night against Toronto. He left the game in the third inning with a 3-0 lead and saw the Sox go on to a 7-4 victory that snapped a five-game losing streak.
Chacin didn’t get the victory but he gained plenty of satisfaction.
“He did a good job. He hit the wall in that last inning, but overall another good performance,” manager Alex Cora said. “Fastball command was better; the slider plays. He has a pretty good idea of what to do.”
Chacin is getting stronger each time out. The idea each time is to go as deep as he can.
“I’m getting there,” he said. “Feeling a little more like my old self.”
Chacin has a 3.98 ERA over 252 games and 11 seasons. He also started three playoff games for Milwaukee last season and gave up two runs over 12⅓ innings.
This season was a rough one, but he’s been a successful big league starter.
Chacin retired the first five Blue Jays he faced, three by strikeout. It should have been six in a row but Andrew Benintendi lost a fly ball to left field in the lights and it fell in for a double for Randall Grichuck.
Chacin, who was walking toward the dugout, came back to the mound and walked Reese McGuire to continue the inning before Billy McKinney flied out to right field.
He put two on in the third before Darwinzon Hernandez came on to strike out Red Sox-killer Rowdy Tellez.
Chacin is one of five players from Venezuela on the roster and he’s taken it upon himself to serve as a mentor to Hernandez, Eduardo Rodriguez and the others.
“He understands the things they have to do, not only on the field,” Cora said. “He’s been great for them.”
Chacin enjoys that role.
“I never played with any of these guys before. But I knew Eduardo and Sandy [Leon] from before and [Xander] Bogaerts, too,” he said.
“It’s fun to talk about pitching and hitting and everything else in baseball. I’ve been around and I know a little bit more than them. I talk about my experiences and tell them that no matter how much you’re down in this game, you have to pick your head up and keep trying because it can change. You can’t ever give up.”
Chacin will likely get three more starts for the Sox this season, more chances to build a case to find a job for next season.
“I’m just trying to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said. “However many times I pitch over the next couple of weeks, I want to finish strong and show that I’m healthy and can be a good pitcher again.”
Maybe that could be with the Red Sox. One of the flaws of this season’s team was the lack of rotation depth and that will be important to fix next year, especially given the troubling injury history with both David Price and Chris Sale.
Chacin could well be a good, low-cost fit.
“It’s Boston. I’ve been very happy to be here and get to know these guys,” he said. “They won the World Series last year and it’s a great opportunity to be in an organization like that.
“I’m just trying to help this team now and give myself a chance to pitch next season. I still have a lot of games left.”