Wacha says signing with Sox was 'almost a no brainer'

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Nov. 27—Early in his career, Michael Wacha got a close look at just how electric Fenway Park can get.

A 22-year-old rookie pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals, Wacha started Games 2 and 6 of the 2013 World Series at Fenway Park. On the latter night the Red Sox clinched their third World Series title in a decade, and Wacha experienced the full brunt of a charged Fenway crowd whipped into a frenzy by the prospect of an imminent championship.

"It was bananas out there," Wacha said. "It was 30 or 40 thousand guys screaming at the top of their lungs and creating an atmosphere you love playing in."

Eight years later Wacha has been back at Fenway Park plenty. Most recently he spent the 2021 season with the AL East rival Tampa Bay Rays, where he experienced another wild scene at Fenway Park during the ALDS and where his team collectively faced the Red Sox 23 times.

But beyond the crowd support, Wacha saw something else when he looked across to the Red Sox dugout, something that stuck with him this offseason when it came time to make his latest free agency decision.

"Looking over there you could see how much fun they were having. You could see the chemistry and the vibe they had going and that was very attractive to me," Wacha said. "After talking with Cora and Bushy it was almost a no brainier, these guys know what they're doing and they really have their players' backs."

Long a Red Sox foe, Wacha has now come over to Boston's side after signing a one-year deal reportedly worth $7 million. Wacha will add depth to Boston's starting rotation and will presumably compete with Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock for either the No. 4 or 5 spot, depending on what other free agent additions the Red Sox make.

Now 30 years old, Wacha is coming off a down year where he posted a 5.05 ERA over 124.2 innings with the Rays. He has a history of injuries too, but Wacha said he's feeling as good as he has in a long time and that right now "I feel like a new man out there."

"Last year was probably the best my shoulder and elbow have felt in my whole career," Wacha said. "I feel like I'm in a great spot right now with my health."

Whether he earns a starting spot or takes on a bullpen role similar to what Garrett Richards had last year, Wacha said he's excited to compete and for the chance to finally have the Boston fans on his side.

"As a player that's what you want. You want to play in front of a bunch of fans that are supporting you, that show up and that want you to win and have your back," Wacha said. "It's always been fun going to Fenway Park and playing against them, but I think it's going to be a lot more fun when they're cheering you on and they're on my side."

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com. Twitter: @MacCerullo.