FORT MYERS, Fla. — Chris Capuano took the field in the uniform of the team he rooted for while growing up in Massachusetts.
The left-hander worked out for the first time with the Boston Red Sox on Saturday after signing a $2.25 million, one-year contract.
Having grown up in West Springfield, Mass., “definitely played a part” in his decision to sign with the Red Sox after spending the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Capuano recalled his disappointment when the Red Sox lost the World Series to the New York Mets in seven games in 1986.
“I was 8 years old,” he said. “I can remember being devastated. As a kid, I grew up watching the Sox and really following them, so when I was out in the backyard playing Whiffle 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 do that.”
Fenway Park is one stadium where he hasn’t pitched as a major leaguer, although he did pitch and play left field there during a high school all-star game between teams from Massachusetts and Connecticut.
His wife is from Grafton, about an hour from Boston, so “it really is going to be like coming home for us,” he said.
Capuano has started 209 of his 238 major-league games, going 73-83 with a 4.26 ERA. He likely will be used out of the bullpen and, if the need arises, as a sixth starter behind Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront.
He assumes the role Ryan Dempster would have filled had Dempster not decided to take 2014 off for physical and personal reasons.
The Red Sox announced Capuano’s signing on Saturday and placed Dempster, who had one year left on his contract, on the restricted list.
“Last year we were in a situation with the Dodgers where we had eight good starting pitchers coming out of spring training. It wasn’t long before I got a chance to start there,” Capuano said, but “I’m ready to just contribute any way I can.”
He made the NL all-star team in 2006, one of his five seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, when he went 11-12 with a 4.26 ERA.
He missed the 2008 and 2009 seasons after his second Tommy John elbow-ligament replacement surgery then returned to the Brewers in 2010 before going 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA in 2011 with the New York Mets.
Last year with the Dodgers, Capuano pitched his first two games in relief then started 20 straight games before pitching his last two out of the bullpen. He was 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA and said the Dodgers weren’t interested in bringing him back.
That gave him a chance to pitch for the Red Sox.
“Boston’s got a great history, a storied organization,” Capuano said. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that as a player?”
UNION CONCERNS: Union head Tony Clark is concerned that free agents who would cost a team a draft choice for signing them are still without jobs.
Of the 13 players who would require compensation, three remain unsigned with teams already at spring training — shortstop Stephen Drew, designated hitter Kendrys Morales and right-hander Ervin Santana.
“The way the free agent market has played itself out over the last couple of years suggests that draft pick compensation and the free agent market in general is a concern that we’re paying attention to, obviously,” Clark said Saturday after meeting with Boston Red Sox players.
“We still have guys, very good players, quality players that can help any number of clubs who are still on the market, some with draft-pick compensation, some not.”
Teams that make qualifying offers to their own free agents are entitled to a draft pick as compensation if the player signs elsewhere.
Making his first tour of training camps since becoming executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, Clark said the compensation issue would be “a topic of discussion,” although the current collective bargaining agreement runs through the 2016 season.
“There’s certain criteria that’s going to have to be met for a CBA to be opened up (before then) and I’m not sure that’s happened,” Clark said.