BOSTON — Jake Peavy hasn't forgotten the first words Jonny Gomes said to him on his first day in the Fenway Park home clubhouse after his trade from the Chicago White Sox.
"I asked how Jonny was doing, and his quote to me was, 'Just a day closer to the parade, Jake. Doing well. Just check this one off the list.'
"It took me a minute to realize what that meant," Peavy said Monday. "I said, 'Oh my God. He's talking about the World Series parade.' This is the last day of July."
Nearly three months later, the Boston Red Sox are four victories away from making that proclamation a reality. They open the World Series at home Wednesday night with a blend of talent, confidence and unselfishness that mirrors their opponent, the St. Louis Cardinals.
"They're a well-rounded team," Red Sox catcher David Ross said. "I told my wife when I watched them beat Pittsburgh, I think that will be the team we'll play in the World Series. I was being a little cocky. They're fundamentally sound. They run the bases well. They scout well. They work on the little things, just like here."
Unlike the Cardinals, who returned to the Series for the second time in three years and came within one victory of reaching the Series in 2012, the Red Sox transformation from a tumultuous last-place finish in the American League East provided plenty of galvanizing developments.
First, the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 brought the players closer to the community. Manager John Farrell recalled five groups of players visited victims at hospitals and honored them and first responders five days later in a pregame ceremony.
"What I've seen this year is like no other," Farrell said. "And that's a cohesiveness that whether it goes back to the bombing was one example to unite or galvanize to, but the number of team functions that this group will do impromptu is something I've never seen. Dinners of 20 to 24 guys going to dinner, those things typically don't happen in this day and age. But they happen here quite regularly."
The depth of the Red Sox rotation makes it even easier for Peavy, who has been accustomed to being a staff ace with the San Diego Padres and with the White Sox, to accept not pitching until the Series shifts to St. Louis and Busch Stadium this weekend.
"Our first two guys have won World Series-clinching games," said Peavy, referring to Game 1 starter Jon Lester (2007) and John Lackey (2002 with the Angels). "That's a pretty impressive resume with what these guys have done."
The Red Sox will be at a distinct disadvantage when the Series shifts to St. Louis, where the designated hitter won't be used. That means that Mike Napoli, who hit 23 home runs during the regular season and two in the AL Championship Series against Detroit, likely will be relegated to the bench while David Ortiz plays first base.
"It's not fun for us with the style of play we're used to playing," Peavy said. "But at the same time, we'll have one of those hired guys on the bench ready for that moment.''
Gonzales is a sports reporter for the Chicago Tribune.