As a Red Sox fan, it’s a comfort to know that Jonathan Papelbon will be back in the bullpen this season saving games for the Red Sox rather than starting them. Judging by the reactions of the Red Sox players, they feel the same way as I do.
Brendan Donnelly: “Having it be final is what we’ve been waiting for. We knew it was going to happen if he was healthy. Every good team has to have an established closer. Papelbon did a great job last year and he should do the same this year.”
Jason Varitek: “I think we’re going to have a very good bullpen, but we have to get [Mike] Timlin back healthy for it to be what we want it to be. But that will happen. It simplifies things for sure. Jonathan does a great job in that role and I think the energy he brings is going to rub off on everyone else.”
Joel PiÃ±ero: “To be honest, when I came over here I didn’t understand why Jonathan was leaving the bullpen because he was such a dominant closer. I said to myself, ‘That’s weird.’ He had established himself as a big-league closer and that’s what’s best for the team. So when they announced he was going back, I just thought, ‘What a great thing for us.’ I would have loved to have done it, but they never promised me anything. I just wanted the opportunity to work as a setup man and maybe close some games.”
It’s good to see the team rally around the decision made by Terry Francona and Theo Epstein. In the short-term and the long run it can only make the Red Sox better.
Papelbon got himself in trouble a little bit on Friday when he spoke with the media. This is what he first said:
â€œObviously, I wonâ€™t be throwing four days in a row, things of that nature. And Iâ€™m not going to be throwing in the eighth and ninth, things like that. Therefore, I can do it for the next â€˜Xâ€™ amount of years and stay healthy.â€
He then corrected what he said after the men upstairs in the Red Sox organization heard his comments not wanting to let their plans for Papelbon get out to the opposing teams.
â€œWeâ€™re going to devise a system of working out, throwing, everything, the whole nine yards,. We havenâ€™t sat down and done that. Whether Iâ€™m going to be throwing in the eighth or ninth, I donâ€™t know yet. That needs to be figured out. Weâ€™ll keep that in-house . . . just for competitive reasons.â€
Probably a smart thing by Papelbon and the higher powers. We all know if the game is close, he is going to be in depending on his health. With his new strengthening program, hopefully his shoulder will hold up during the season.
Papelbon has high expectations coming into the season as a closer. If you didn’t know, he was a closer in college at Mississippi but the Red Sox drafted him as a starter. He came up through the minor league system as a starter and was even going to be a starter last season before moving to the bullpen and eventually the closer’s role when Keith Foulke’s knee started to flare up. Papelbon says that wants to emulate Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.
“This is something that I’ve decided that I want to do for the rest of my career and chase records, and, hopefully, make the Hall of Fame and do [some] special things in the game that maybe no other closer has ever done before.”
“He’s kind of the man that, to everybody who is a closer now, he’s like the ‘Godfather. He understands that we’re going to be going after him. I think what he’s done for the role of a closer and for the game of baseball has been a big thing. Like I said man, he’s like the ‘Godfather.'”
If this is the case and Papelbon can become as good as Rivera, the Red Sox bullpen, at least at the backend, will be dominant for years to come. Of course a lot of how good he can become is gonna rest of the health of his shoulder.