Jonathon Papelbon. Wait! Let me add two more words to that very short sentence. A HEALTHY Jonathon Papelbon. Sounds good, huh? It does to me on this Jauary 12th, a warm morning, but not as warm as we've been used to in this balmy continuation of a warm December, a time called January. All that will change, and soon. Sunday night, right through Tuesday morning (?) to be explicit, courtesy of frigid cold air that had been stranded and prevented from seeping down from Canada and points north. Normal temperatures will return, soon! But hold on...I lost my train of thought. My train was derailed, and it happens often. If I were you, I'd take the bus. Paps! Oh yes...read this article, which can be read in full by clicking on the title, from SLAM Sports, out of Canada, and echoed in many papers this morning. I thought this particular piece hadn't been seen by many of you, my expanding (!) core of faithfuls. So....
"The Boston Red Sox are still looking for a closer, even though they have one who was among baseball's best in 2006.
Jonathan Papelbon saved 35 games in 41 tries last year and was the runner-up for AL rookie of the year despite ending his season early with a shoulder injury. Now he's getting ready to pitch again - as a member of the Red Sox starting rotation.
"I want to go out and prove that I can do this as well," Papelbon said Thursday before collecting the Red Sox pitcher, rookie and fireman of the year awards at the annual dinner of the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "We're going to have a great competition out there. There's no reason why, between the guys we've got we can't have an outstanding closer before the end of spring training."
A starter throughout his minor league career, Papelbon was 4-2 with a 0.92 ERA last season as a converted reliever. But he ended his season a month early because of a tired shoulder.
Papelbon met with the team's front office and medical staff in the off-season and they decided it would be better for him to have a regular spot in the rotation. But since then, the Red Sox have not been able to sign an accomplished pitcher to finish games.
General manager Theo Epstein has added former starter Joel Pineiro and right-hander Brendan Donnelly to compete for the closer's job with holdovers Julian Tavarez, Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen and Mike Timlin.
"Those answers will emerge in spring training," new pitching coach John Farrell said.
Could the answer be the same as it was last year.
"It's going to require added conversation about what's best not only for the Red Sox but what's best for Jonathan Papelbon's well-being," Farrell said.
The Red Sox could wind up with a surplus of starters if everything goes well with Curt Schilling, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester. Already Papelbon has heard from fans who want him to return to the bullpen, and he knows he can end the closer search with one phone call.
"Of course I could," he said. "I told Theo the other day, 'I guess I'm going to have to go out and win five in a row to quiet everybody."'
Papelbon said he's been working out for more than three hours a day in response to recover from his injury. He started throwing 3 1/2 weeks ago, first from 30 feet, then 60 and now 90 as he makes his way to full arm strength at 150 feet.
"My arm's stronger than it's ever been," he said."
Peter here, smiling and ready. Smiling because I'm sure we ALL loved that last Paps' quote. Gotta love it! So Jonathon is excited to return (yes, return) to our strong rotation. Schill, knowing this is his last year, will raise his intensity every fifth day. Josh Beckett, on his second time through the AL, knows he has to mix up his pitches instead of rearing back and trying to throw a speedball by the hitter, when the hitter will be looking for it. Change your tactics, Josh. They DID NOT work last year. Daisuke...we'll see. One thing we know is this....he's got major league stuff. There WILL be a learning experience we'll all have to go through, including Dice himself. AND his interpreter. But he'll be just fine! Timmy Wakes..we know what to expect...when he's on, well, that's why we thank Dougie for catching those hopefully unhittable knucklers. 15 wins for Wakes? If that comes to pass, the sky is the limit as to where we will finish. And last and of course, not least, and said with soooo much love, Jon Lester. Courage exceeded. And thank God he is cancer-free. With his ability, as a pitcher AND a leftie, he will be on our pitching staff, 'pen, or a starter. For you see, and now that this has become a cliche, the Red Sox STILL ignored this early last season, so it bears repeating..... "There is no such thing a too much pitching."
I'm NOT going into the bullpen, or the fact that the Red Sox are one of three candidates for the late-starting services of one Roger Clemens. IS HE THE ANSWER TO OUR CLOSER CONFUSION? He could be, but he'd be sacrificing every cherished victory to add to his unbelievable record if he went that route. He will not. And it's been reported today that Rocket in no way will start the season as every other major leaguer does...in spring training. So enough about Mr. Clemens...Roger, we'll see you later.
But the focus on this "already longer than I expected" Friday post is Paps, a healthy Paps pitching where HE WANTS to pitch. Anyone want to join me and say..."YES!!!!!" Thanks as always for reading me. I am humbled by my ever increasing readership. And I love every one of you!
Have a great Friday, the start of a mid-January football-filled weekend. Go Pats....a win in San Diego will make SUCH a statement. We'll have to wait, for it's the late Sunday game, but what better way to spend that late afternoon sun-setting part of the day than to watch Tom Brady and company invade and conquer southern California. Conquer away! For ALL of us.
Right Kaylee? She is SUCH a fan. As am I.