FORT MYERS, Fla. — Chris Capuano could finally live out his boyhood dream in 2014.
Capuano, who grew up in West Springfield, Mass., passed his physical with the Boston Red Sox on Saturday. The 35-year-old officially has joined the organization he rooted for while growing up, and his first Fenway Park appearance at the major league level seems inevitable.
“I was 8 years old in ’86 when [the Red Sox] lost to the [New York] Mets [in the World Series] and I remember being devastated as a kid,” Capuano said at JetBlue Park on Saturday. “I grew up watching the Sox and really following them. When I was in the backyard playing Wiffle ball with my friends, we would always imagine ourselves on the mound at Fenway, so it’s kind of cool to come back and maybe have a chance to be there.”
Capuano has pitched in parts of nine major league seasons — all in the National League. Only once has the Cathedral High School graduate had an opportunity to play at Fenway Park, and his appearance came during a high school All-Star Game in which his Massachusetts squad faced a team from Connecticut.
“It definitely plays a part in it,” Capuano said when asked if being a local kid influenced his decision to sign with the Red Sox. “That and the fact that Boston has a great history. It’s a storied organization. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that as a player?”
Capuano likely will begin the season in the Red Sox’s bullpen, although the left-hander also will serve as Boston’s sixth starter. Capuano will play a role similar to the one vacated by Ryan Dempster, who announced upon reporting to spring training that he will not pitch in 2014.
“It’s a different animal,” Capuano said of pitching in relief versus pitching as a starter. “You have to be ready to go every day, you have to kind of monitor your throwing a bit. You can’t quite get the full bullpen sides that you would as a starter.
“But the first year when I came back from Tommy John in 2010, Trevor Hoffman was in the bullpen there with us and I had a chance to really kind of watch how a real professional went about it, and I think that kind of taught me at least some of how to prepare every day for that role.”
Capuano, who has undergone two Tommy John surgeries, said Saturday that he thinks the procedures actually made him a better pitcher. The veteran southpaw insists he never considered retirement, and said that he realized after his second surgery that he truly loves the game of baseball.
Capuano enters the 2014 season with a 73-83 record and 4.27 ERA in 238 career appearances (209 starts). Appearance No. 239 could end up being his most memorable.
“It really is going to be like coming home for us,” Capuano said.