ST. LOUIS -- Chris Capuano arrived at Busch Stadium shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday, towing his carry-on luggage, and quickly settled into his pre-start routine for that afternoon's game against the Cardinals.
But if trade discussions between the Mets and Boston had not collapsed two days earlier, according to a person familiar with the situation, Capuano would have found himself thrust into the middle of a panic-stricken Red Sox Nation.
Yes, it's that bad in Boston, where they are so desperate for pitching that the Red Sox sought to acquire Capuano for just one start -- Sunday at Yankee Stadium -- in an effort to fend off the Rays and Angels for the wild card.
Capuano, a native of Springfield, Mass., might have jumped at the chance, but it never got to that point. Instead, the Mets chose to hold on to Capuano -- perhaps as a precursor to re-signing the lefthander for next season -- and he took the mound with a chance to damage the Cardinals' wild-card hopes.
"It would be strange," Capuano said of potentially heading to Boston. "It would have been a unique challenge to try to block all that out and just focus on making pitches."
Capuano grew up a Red Sox fan -- "The Mets broke my heart in '86," he said -- but if he had pitched for Boston the way he did Thursday in the Mets' 8-6 comeback victory over the Cardinals, he wouldn't have made many new friends in New England.
Capuano, who entered 11-12, allowed four runs and eight hits, including homers by Allen Craig and Albert Pujols, in 42/3 innings but got a no-decision. He surrendered a two-run homer to Craig in the first inning and Pujols added a solo shot with two outs in the fifth. The Cardinals followed with three straight hits, and Yadier Molina's RBI single finally chased him.
It's hard to believe Capuano would have fared much better Sunday against the Yankees, who raked him for four home runs in the Mets' 7-3 loss May 21 in the Bronx. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin took him deep that day.
Despite Thursday's flop, Capuano has to be considered Sandy Alderson's best offseason gamble. He rolled the dice with Chris Young's right shoulder and quickly lost him to season-ending surgery, but Capuano -- also signed to an incentive-laden one-year deal -- made it pay off for him and the Mets.
With Thursday's start, Capuano has 30 for the season and a total of 180 innings, which earned him another $2.35 million in bonus money on top of his $1.5-million base salary. Alderson certainly will explore bringing him back -- Capuano's preference would be to remain a starter -- and that plan likely influenced the GM's decision to nix a deal with the Red Sox.
"I've said how much I love New York," Capuano said. "I love living in New York and I've had nothing but a positive experience playing here, so of course I'd love to be back. But it all depends on how the Mets' offseason shapes up, what free-agent acquisitions they make, Johan Santana coming back. A lot of that depends on the Mets."
Alderson refused to comment specifically on any trade talks involving Capuano, but he did provide some insight into why he would keep someone just to play out the string.
"There could be a number of reasons for it," Alderson said. "Not getting back what you think is fair compensation, wanting to finish the season as strongly as possible, perhaps wanting to retain a player from one year to the next. All that figures into what's acceptable and what's not in terms of making a potential deal."