TORONTO -- Jesse Chavez was nearly a Fukuoka SoftBank Hawk. But the Blue Jays rejected the Japanese baseball team's offer and, three months later, sold him to the A's.
"I don't feel like a Japan pitcher yet," Chavez said he thought at the time.
Turns out he was right.
The former journeyman, one of baseball's biggest early-season feel-good stories, will enter Saturday's contest in Toronto -- his first start against his former team -- boasting one of the American League's best ERAs (2.54) on a first-place club.
Chavez admits Saturday's start in Toronto will have a "different feel" than the others. In part, the right-hander said Friday, "because they gave me the opportunity to start, which opened up a different door in my career."
But he made just two starts for the Blue Jays in 2012 -- both rough -- before they decided the experiment was over, and it was just a few weeks after a potential deal with the Hawks went south when he learned about the details of it all. He was back in Triple-A, and "I started to do a nose dive," he said.
"All I could think was, 'What's going to happen? I've been through this enough. Where am I going to be now? When can I start a season and finish a season with a team and get that comfortability, get that chemistry with the guys?'"
Chavez, having already been a part of six organizations in as many years to that point, has found that with the A's, who have given him what was lacking more than anything in Toronto.
"Confidence," Chavez said. "That extended opportunity in a role where Bob [Melvin] allowed me to succeed. Coming over here was like, OK, I think I can do this now. Just being in this clubhouse -- and it's not a knock on any other clubhouse I've been in -- you just get that feeling when you walk in. The guys, the attitudes, it was the turning point for me."