Results tagged ‘ Jonathan Papelbon ’

Catching up with Papelbon

While David Ortiz was the only Red Sox All-Star this season, there was a familiar face in the room during the availability for National League All-Stars on Monday afternoon.

Jonathan Papelbon, a four-time All-Star with Boston, was back on the big stage again, this time for the Philadelphia Phillies.

As was always the case during his years with the Red Sox, Papelbon had plenty to say on a variety of subjects.

Has Papelbon’s newfound wealth changed him? “It hasn’t changed my life at all. I’m good, man. I bought two four-wheelers for hunting camp. That’s about it, man. I went from a Back Bay penthouse to a Renthouse Square penthouse. That’s about it, man. When it’s all said and done, man, I’m easy breezy. I mean, the contract for me, it never real was about money. I’ve said this from the beginning. If it was about money for me, I would have tried to stay and start.

“It was a pride thing for me. It was a thing that I felt like, what can I do to go enjoy myself every day man. But the contract for me and wanting to go year to year like I did, and into the free agency like I did, was, I think, more just the competitive thing for me. Like, I’m going to try to be the best on the field and if I can be best on the field, why not be the best off the field? You know what I mean? It’s just kind of the way I tick.”

Papelbon hasn’t lost any motivation just because he has financial security, right? “No, man, I’m always ready to go, ready to rock. I think, when that starts happening, you really have to ask yourself: should I keep playing this game? When your work ethic changes and you start getting lazy and stuff like that … I’m one of those guys, I don’t do anything [less than full speed]. That’s just what I do.”

It would have been tough for Papelbon to stay in Boston without the only manager he ever had there — Terry Francona. “Yeah. I truly do believe that. Tito told me how to play big league baseball. I tell you what, that [guy ripped into me] sometimes. He did. But a lot of times also, he picked me up when I was falling down. He told me the ins and outs of how to prepare, how to be successful, how to succeed. He told me something one day when I was a rookie, he said, I had Michael Jordan in Birmingham and he said, you’ve got to learn how to fail before you succeed. And man, something just clicked in my head.

“It’s things like that, when I was a young kid coming up, everything, from the first Spring Training I had in Baltimore, sitting down with me and explaining how it works and how to be successful and everything. He was like a father figure to me sometimes. A to Z, to go from having him for a manager from ’05 to 2011, it’s just, him being gone, that wouldn’t have been easy for me. I don’t think it’s easy for Dustin [Pedroia], and I don’t think it’s easy for anyone in that clubhouse. There are adjustments you have to make. “

Was Papelbon gone pretty much the moment Tito left? “I’d say it pretty much closed the door, yeah. Not 100 percent but I wasn’t going to go there and not know what manager I was going to playing for. Even when Philadelphia showed interest in me, I asked around about Charlie, you know, because I think as manager has a lot to do with the way a player ticks and a way a player can go. It did – it had a whole lot. And then Theo bounces, ding, ding, ding, lightbulb went off in my head and I say to myself, Theo bounces, he created all of this. He wouldn’t just leave this behind if … so the wheels started turning.”

How weird would it have been to stay under the new regime? “I think it would be. I don’t think that would be an experience that I could really handle too well.”

The Red Sox never made an offer. “They wanted to see if I could go out and test the market and maybe come back. I don’t know if they would [have countered], but I don’t go back. I go forward.   go full steam ahead, man. I don’t look back. I’ve got a car that don’t have rearview mirrors in it, man. I just go.”

Charlie Manuel reminds Papelbon of Francona. “Charlie’s a really good manager. Charlie’s very similar to Tito. Charlie gets on you when he needs to get on you and lets you be who you need to be.”

Papelbon is thrilled for his close friend and former teammate David Ortiz. “I was saying that earlier. I’m excited for him, I’m happy for him. I mean, I think sometimes he gets his feelings get in the way but that’s Papi, man. Papi, he gets a little emotionally fired up sometimes. You guys know. I mean, I’m happy for him. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Lack of security for Ortiz, similar to Papelbon’s final years in Boston? “I think it fuels him. He just talks about it a little bit more. David, he’s an emotional guy. He puts his heart and soul into this. I find nothing wrong with what David says. I don’t find … you’ve got a small window, bro. a small window to try to succeed. And what David said and what he’s trying to do, I don’t find nothing wrong with that. no, it don’t surprise me, man.”

“Like I said, you have a small window to do your thing in this game. I’m so happy for him, man.”

Should the Red Sox weigh in intangibles more for a player like Ortiz? “Yeah, I think they should weigh it in. you’re talking about, in my opinion, the Red Sox are not the Red Sox without him, period. I don’t care what he asks for. I’m trying to make that big man happy.”

Papelbon is well aware that his former bullpen mate Daniel Bard, who is now in Triple-A, is having a rough time of it.  “I have. I haven’t talked to him. I’ve been meaning to actually talk to him here lately but, you know, Daniel’s the kind of guy, he’s a mature athlete and he knows what it’s about. He’s going to be fine. I really do think he’s going to be fine. He’s taking some bumps and some bruises right now but who doesn’t. You’re not in the big leagues if you’re not taking bumps and bruises. I took my bumps and bruises in 2010. You’re going to take some bumps and bruises. I think he’ll become better.”

Papelbon thinks Bard will be OK.  “He’s a pretty mentally strong kid. He really is. I saw that in the bullpen. I saw the days he got beat up and the way he  came back. I saw him have success the way he handled that. I think he’ll be fine.”

Papelbon unveiled in Philly

How strange did Jonathan Papelbon look in that white pinstriped Phillies uniform late Monday afternoon?

Papelbon, the all-time leader in saves for the Red Sox, is officially gone.

Here is a sampling of what he said at his unveiling today:

“This happened pretty quick, it really did. I was on the phone with my agents for a couple of days and it happened pretty quick. Quicker than I thought. For me and my personal decision, to come here was solely based on the guys showing interest in me here and Ruben showing interest in nme. Im the type of guy, I’m loyal to those who are loyal to me. It really didn’t boil down to going back to the Red Sox and seeing if they wanted me back. I knew these guys wanted me so there was no hesitation.”
Did the Red Sox lack loyalty? “No, it wan’t that at all. it was just the simple fact that the Phillies showed they were interested in me. I wanted to make this d ecision quick and get it over with. The Phillies showed the utmost loyaslty to me. I didn’t want to sit there and debeate whether I should go back to Boston or come here. the Phillies showed they wanted me, so I showed the same respect.”
The 58 at the end of his contract? “I don’t know, you’re going to have to ask Cinco Ocho that question. I can’t give you that. I can give you his phone number if you need it.”

Why the Phillies? “The Phillies were very high on my list. They were probably the number one team on my list for the simple fact is’t an environment that meks me tick. The fans are into eveyr pitch, the fans are knowledgeable about baseball. The fans aren’t going to expect anything more than what I’m going to expect out of myself.”

Fans similar to Boston: “I don’t think I’m looking to preare to come to pitch here. I don’t think anything is going to be different. I’m not going to try to come here and be a pitcher that I’m not or excced expectations or guarantee expectations. I’m going to show up every day and work and prepare the best way I can and the way I’ve done the last seven seasons in the big league.s that’s all I can do.”

Talks with the Red Sox? “To answer the first part of that question, there were no talks with the Red Sox, as far as getting something done and both of us agreeing on. There were talks but I don’t think anything kind of evolved.”

Tito and Theo leaving: “I don’t think that really played much part in my decision. That’s part of the nature of this game. players come and go every year. Coaches come and go every year.”

Any other offers, “We discussed a few other options but for me, my agents called me every day with what could possibly happen. I think one day, I finally told them, listen, I want to go play for the Phillies. Let’s make it happen. they called me two dyas later and they made it happen.”
“There’s something in my heart that feels like I was meant to be here in this city and play for this organization.”

Changing leagues, “Actually I was just talking to Charlie a little bit about that. In the American league, ther’s no looking on deck. In the National League, there’s a little bit more of a cat and mouse game. I don’t think for a closer and in my role, there’s that much of a difference. I have to go out there and preserve wins for the ballclub. That’s the bottom line. As far as the way the season ended last year, I’ve always felt if it doesn’t kill you I’ts going to make you stronger. There’s plenty of situations and plenty of ups and downs. I’ve had my fair share of ups, my fair share of downs. Those experiences, hopefully they make you better.”

Why did Ruben Amaro, Jr. want Papelbon so bad? “I think more than anything else, probably a few things. Obviously his durability,” Amaro said. “His consistency. The fact he’s had postseason experience in a very high-pressured situation. All those things were important to use because he’s kind of gone through the wars. He’s made the last pitch when it’s been necessary. Any time you’ve had someone who’s made the last pitch, that means a lot.”

Henry, Lucchino talk Epstein, other things

In a wide-ranging interview with WEEI this morning — and simulcast on NESN — Red Sox owner John Henry and president/CEO Larry Lucchino ran through the gamut of topics that have engulfed the club since the season ended way earlier than anyone could have expected.

How stunning is this that you didn’t play in October?

Henry: “I think, weren’t people writing at that point of the season that this was the greatest Red Sox team ever?”

Did you assume the Sox were in? Henry: “You never assume. In other business as well, you never assume that you’re going to accomplish your goals until you accomplish them.”

Lucchino: “I think that was a reasonable assumption at that point, given the lead, where we were in the season. and the statistical probabilities of what would happen. Certainly none of us anticipated a collapse of biblical proportions that we endured.”

Tito was a little cryptic about where it all went wrong, Henry: “Uh, there was some cryptic-ness when we met. You remember, we had problems over the years with certain players. Like Manny Ramirez, for instance, was a problem at one point for the manager. But he had his back, because that’s the clubhouse culture. As a manager, you don’t throw your players under the bus. You do everything you can to make them productive and keep them that way. In this case, we didn’t get any information along those lines at that point.”

Allegations that starting pitchers were drinking in the clubhouse during games? Lucchino: “There are certain principles that are important within the clubhouse culture. I think that’s one of them. it’s not something that we think should be tolerated. There’s a rule about it and it should be enforced. It was much after the fact that that was brought to our attention. We’re still trying to dig in, trying to figure out how pervasive it was, how extensive it was and not try to superficially conclude that it was a major factor in anything.”

When did Titanic hit iceberg? Henry: “We didn’t just hit an iceberg. Every day we went, what, 7-20? This was a team that was going 20-7 and suddenly went 7-20. So it was throughout that process that we began to wonder, why is this team breaking down? This is the second straight year that on Aug. 1 we looked great and looked like we were headed for a potential World Series and second straight year that the team broke down physically. I’ve been reading somewhat what the media has been saying. I haven’t heard enough about that. that was the concern that started at some point during that decline. The biggest concern we had was we’re just not doing well physically.”

Subpar physical fitness? Lucchino: “It’s certainly an issue that’s important to us, physical conditioning. That’s another one of the issues we are looking into examining. It’s our responsibility to try to right this ship and give the fans what we promised when we got here, which is a team worthy of their support. We’re going to do that. We’re going to look into the whole conditioning issue. I take exception to pointing to any individual. I don’t want to talk about any individual in particular. But I will talk about the general notion that our team has to be in first class physical condition. And as John said, the last couple of years, we’ve seen a dramatic decline at the end of the season. That is one of a myriad of issues to look at going forward.”

Pitchers out of shape? You looking into that. Henry: “Yeah, the day before yesterday, I spoke with a couple of our medical people and the trainers and so forth just to try to get an idea. We’re still early in this process and that’s one of the reasons there hasn’t been a lot to say. You don’t want to go off half cocked because one person said this. Talking to a few people, one thing thus far that I’ve been able to establish is that the pitchers did their work. They did their cardiovascular. This organization is as good as any in baseball, I’m told, at doing their work. What is their work? Cardiovascular, shoulder exercise is very important. Very important. We have very little in the way of shoulder problems, as compared to other clubs. They did their leg work. Some of the people, including the person you mentioned [Josh Beckett], are adamant. That’s what they do. They don’t shirk those responsibilities.

“Were there nutritional issues was another question I asked? Yes. I believe there were nutritional issues and there’s just, one of the things we’ve learned in getting involved with English football is they have sports science and the science of fitness is very advanced among football teams around the world, at least the top football teams. So we’ve learned a lot just recently. Our people within the Red Sox have learned a lot. I think there’s much more we can do. to me, the most important thing is this is the third time in six years, and certainly the second straight which a great team just couldn’t make it through 162 games physically. And it wasn’t just one or two players. We were really banged up. We were really struggling to put healthy players on the field. every team has to be able to make it through 162 games. Two years in a row we didn’t do it.”

Tito mentioned something about lack of support/encouragement from ownership as things unraveled: Henry: “I don’t engage in encouragement. My way of encouraging the manager is generally, if we win, I’ll go down and say hello. My experience over the years is they really don’t want a lot of interracation from our level when things aren’t going well. But every once in a while, I will send over the years, I would send Terry an e-mail and basically say, you’re doing a great job, which I did this year, or we’re going to be fine. I’m probably the person inside among Tom and Larry and Theo and Tito, among all of us, I’m probably the person who most often says, we’ll be fine. The problem is we weren’t fine this year. “

Lucchino: “We did make an effort as things were proceeding in the wrong direction in September, certainly we made an effort before games. I would go down on the field and certainly not pep talks, but just try to engage some conversation to show that we were in this together and to try to beat as comfortable as I could around players, the manager and coaches.”

If you had picked up Tito’s option, he would have stayed. Why did you leave that until after the season? Lucchino:  “It was certainly something we considered during the course of the year. you have to go back a step and understand the contract arrangement we had with Tito which was, we gave him a long term deal and we agreed we would not talk about options until the end of the fourth year. We said there would be a 10-day period. The first order of business after the season would be to talk about options but we don’t want the distraction of that happening during the year. because we had it during ’08. The first part of the ’08 season was all about contracts and his situation, dealing with agents and all that. so I think he understood. It’s not something that was  going to happen during the course of the season. In fact, to his credit, he never said what do you think about my option. His agent never called us. There were never any discussions. We always anticipated that discussion would take place as understood, the first 10 days, the first order of business in the offseason.”

Was this mutual with Tito?  Henry: “Well we really didn’t get a chance to make it mutual. Thinking about it, would we have ended up in the same place he ended up? Based on the things we heard and the things we saw, there’s a strong likelihood that we would have. So you could say it was mutual. The way it took place, in my mind, wasn’t really mutual, the way it took place.”

Lucchino: “We had a conversation about, again, that first day after the season, we sat for an hour and a half, two hours, talking about the season. We went through challenge after challenge and various reasons for the breakdown. We talked to tito about whether he was ready for this challenge, given all the challenges he had enumerated. He made clear to us that he wasn’t. You need a new voice down there. I’m not your man for next year. I think my time here is up. In some ways, he took that position and that is a very determinative factor when your manager feels like there needs to be a change. He did a fantastic job for us over the years. remember, he was contemplating his ninth year in this pressure cooker that is Boston. Different teams require different skillsets or different talents and I think he made an assessment with which we concurred that to that extend, it was mutual, and the word mutual does fit. Still, it was a sad occasion nonetheless. There was no joy that day. we had a myriad of problems identified for us and a manager who suggested in pretty clear terms that we should [move on].”

If they made the playoffs, does Tito still leave? Lucchino: “I’m not sure. I think the same process would unfold. We’d sit down as planned the first 10 days. the first order of business after the season, sit down and talk and find out. it takes to tango. Again, we’re talking about the ninth year. Tito was the second longest duration in Red Sox history, 110 years. you have to find if the manager is still ready for the challenge.”

So the Cubs requested permission to speak with Theo, eh? Henry: “How do you know that? how do you know that?

Lucchino:  “Those things are supposed to be kept private and we have a policy of not discussing whether permission has been asked for x or y or z. In fact, every year we get requests for people. We never discuss them publicly. It’s been our policy and our practice.”

You haven’t denied it though, right? Lucchino: “But our position on that is that we don’t comment on requests. We have gotten requests every year. sometimes one or two or three a year. we don’t talk about them publicly. A few years ago, we got a request from another team about Theo Epstein. You heard nothing about that because we didn’t discuss it publicly. I think there’s good reason for it too. There’s some privacy considerations here. I don’t know that people would want their career development or their job decisions to be debated publicly, for people to know what they’re considering or not considering. And I’m not sure the other team would like that to be made public. Our consistent policy and practice is not to discuss whether there’s been a request made for permission.”

Do you usually give permission? Lucchino: “I’ll tell you what we have done. We have done both in the past. There are numerous individual. I mentioned that Theo was one of them in the past. We’ve had a number of our high ranking people move on.”

If Team A comes to you and says, we’d like to talk to Theo, would you grant them permission? Henry, “There is a certain protocol in this game. if someone asks permission for a job that’s not lateral, you give them permission. Now I’m sure there are examples where it didn’t happen. I’m sure we’ve done that in the past.”

Lucchino, “We don’t mean to sound evasive on this but this is one subject where we don’t think there needs to be full disclosure. Our fans have a keen interest in knowing as much about this team as we can possibly know. There are some thigns that come up against the lines of personal privacy, where there are some considerations that should be factored into it, and that’s where we are with respect to this thing.”

Can you hire a manager without knowing who your GM is? Lucchino, “We’re actively engaged in that search for a new manager. We’re not sitting around twiddling our thumbs. There’s a lot to be done. Theo is actively engaged day to day in that search. We just had a meeting with him the other day going through a list of candidates, possibilities. Ben Cherington is actively involved in the process. Certainly John, Tom and I are involved in it as well. That process is moving ahead. It’s not going to happen overnight. There will be some time that will pass. There’s a lot to work to be done and Theo and Ben are knee-deep in doing it. “

Interview anyone yet? “Not yet. I think one point needs to be made. As I look out over the landscape of what’s been said over the last couple of weeks, I don’t think people understand the governance of the Red Sox. when we talk about a manager, general manager issues, when we talk about important decisions that are made here, this isn’t John or it isn’t Larry. We really, over the last 10 years, have consistently done things collectively. This is a collective process. We’re intimately involved in the managers search. It’s not just theo that’s involved. With regard to what happened with the manager’s situation previously, we made collective decisions. We build consensus. When we signed Adrian Gonzalez, that’s not a one person decision. It’s not just the general manager. That being said, we’re very good, sometimes we’re too chain of command;  Larry and I don’t make baseball decisions.”

Lucchino: “Let me just add that Tom Werner is a critical part of this as well, though he is not here today. In this instance, he is an active part of this process. We are a better organization because of the collaboration, the input. If you take Tom and myself, we’ve probably got like 45 or 50 years collectively of running major league baseball franchises. We take advantage of that experience. We collaborate , we debate.”

Theo’s recent struggles with free agents:  Henry: “I think that’s one of the problems in baseball. It’s hard to predict things. it’s hard to predict performance going forward. When I look back over the last 10 years, and the last eight years with Tito being here and the last nine years Theo has been here, I look at what we’ve accomplished, every year, including this year, I felt we were headed to a World Series. Not the only thing, but the biggest thing to us every year is playing in October. that’s what we do. that’s we spend all our time doing is trying to create an atmosphere. People talk about, we’re business oriented. Well we’re business oriented for one reason. This guy is a tremendous revenue generator for one reason, and that is to be able to give the right people the amount of money it takes to be successful. You can criticize the things he’s done but we’ve averaged, what, 92, 93 wins?“

Horrific finish: Lucchino:  “We are not unmindful of that. This was a disappointing torturous end of the season. As John said earlier, we watch every game. we suffer. We’re in this because we’re competitive people. Go back to December 21st, 2001, our very first press conference. The very first thing we said was, we have an obligation to field a team that’s worthy of the fans support. We feel that now. Believe me, it hurts not to be playing right now. This kind of weather. Walking around the ballpark, I keep thinking, we should be playing. It’s cold comfort, the sense of schandefraude that comes from the Yankees losing. That’s not a noble emotion. We have it. but we should be out there playing. We want that every year and we’ve had a good run at it but the challenges next year are real, they’re there and we’re prepared to deal with them.”

Is Theo the right guy to keep spending John Henry’s money?  Henry: “He is but I think everyone has to understand a couple of things and I think Tito alluded to it. I think there’s a certain shelf life in these jobs. You can only be the general manager if you’re sane. You can only be the general manager …. You can only be the manager for a certain amount of time. There’s a tremendous pressure cooker here —  162 games. It’s a long season and the pressure here is 365 days. Theo is not going to be the general manager forever.  Just as , if Tito had come back for the last two years, would he have gone past 10 years, I can’t imagine that he would have. I think that Theo will … he’s the guy now, he’s been the guy. We’ve had tremendous success. We fell apart at the end of the season. As Larry expressed, we’re upset about it. No fan could be more upset than I am about the result this year. He’s done a tremendous job for us over the last eight years.”

Can you hire a manager until you are sure who your GM is? Lucchino, “I think it’s not desirable to proceed that way if you don’t know who this person’s immediate boss is. I’ve been in situations where that has happened. I think the more desirable scenario is the one you first outlined, that there’s a certainty and a continuity with respect to general manager that would be in place before you pull a trigger on a manager but I’ve seen the opposite occur. Let me remind you that we hired Tery Francona some time in late November, it may have even been the first couple of days of December in 2003. There is time to address this issue. This is an important issue, the manager of this team and the manager of this team in this pressure cooker that is Boston.”

Why Tito over Joe Maddon eight years ago? Lucchino: “Theo should be here to discuss that as well. He certainly had a strong opinion on that. They were both good. Two different flavors of ice cream but they were both good. I think at the time, the sense was that Francona’s history was clearer and that maybe the kind of easy rider we understood him to be would be appropriate for that team. That was my recollection of it.”

What do you want in a manager, Henry: “Well, I think what we were looking for last time, in that we have a certain organizational philosophy and we want someone that is highly intelligent. Someone who can communicate with the players and be able to get the best out of the players. I think we lean in general toward player managers. The most important thing for me, if I had to choose one aspect, is that he really fits into our organizational philosophy.”

Could you kick the tires on someone like Joe Torre or Bobby Valentine: “I’m not going to talk about anyone individually. Would we consider experienced well established managers who are not young, who have been around a bit? The answer is yes.”

Can John Lackey bounce back? Henry: “I think so.”

Lucchino: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

How can you say that? Lucchino: “Can he come back? I say yes he can. I’m not predicting necessarily when he will or if he will. But I’m saying can he? Yes. He’s a guy with an established track record. You have to look beyond the past year or so. Again, it depends on what your level of expectation is for various individuals.”

Just because of the recent difficulty with the success of free agent signings, will the Sox shy away this winter? Lucchino, “We’re not going to turn off any avenue to improve this team. Particularly this year. We’re not going to say, no, we’re not going to dive into the free agent market because of the recent record has not been as successful as we might like. No, we’re going to explore free agency, we’re going to explore trade,s we’re going to explore waiver wire, minor league free agents, international signings. We’re going to look at the whole of possibilities. The challenges are very real for this next year so yes, we will explore free agency.”

Do you keep Ortiz and Papelbon because they’ve proven they can produce in this market? “Those players you identify have leverage because of their performance. Their performance has been substantial here and with that comes a bit of leverage, to be sure. Does that mean we can not find players elsewhere that can fit in? we think we can. It doesn’t mean we’re always right but we think we have a process that theo and our baseball operations takes into consideration makeup and ability to deal with this city and Carl Crawford has had one bad year. This is one year of a long term commitment. It’s too early to say this is a guy who cannot play in Boston. We’ll see about that.”

How will Pap fit in?

In light of the fact that Bobby Jenks will sign with the Red Sox, assuming he passes his physical, it’s fair to wonder how this move will impact Jonathan Papelbon, Boston’s closer of the last five seasons.

After being an All-Star for his first four seasons, Papelbon had a downturn in 2010. His 3.90 ERA was more than a run and a half higher than his previous high as a closer — 2.34 in 2008. The eight blown saves also represented a career high, topping his six from 2006. The 28 walks were a career high, as was the 3.76 walks per nine innings.

Then there were the other signs that he hasn’t slipped that much. For instance, his 10.21 strikeouts per nine inning ratio was his best since 2007, when he had a dominant 12.96. The opposing batting average was also very respectable, at .226. The velocity was also sustained for the most part, his fastball typically coming in at 95-96 as it has for much of his career.

Papelbon is a free agent after the season, and with Jenks now on board for two years, the Red Sox have options. Do you trade Papelbon, who is on the hook for nearly $11 million in 2011? I think Papelbon will end up staying because his trade value is low at this point, given his performance last year combined with his salary.

So do you start Papelbon as the closer, but have Daniel Bard or Jenks available to step in if it looks like a 2010 repeat? It’s hard to imagine Papelbon — given his strong personality — suddenly being reduced to setup man.

But there is bound to be an odd dynamic when he gets to Fort Myers. After all, it is well-documented that the Sox made a run at Mariano Rivera even before making the move for Jenks.

Once the Jenks signing becomes official, it will be interesting to hear what Theo Epstein will have to say regarding Papelbon’s role going forward. Of course, it needs to be noted that Jenks is also coming off the worst year of his career. Will one of these two closers bounce back? Will both of them? WIll neither?

Meanwhile, if the pieces fit together right, Papelbon-Jenks-Bard could be a filty 1-2-3 combo in the back end of the ‘pen. Epstein has also acquired Matt Albers, a groundball specialist who seems like more of a sixth or seventh inning guy. And lefties Rich Hill and Andrew Miller might have a shot to be a lefty in the bullpen, if Epstein doesn’t acquire one from outside the organization.Felix Doubront figures to be in the mix, too, perhaps even as the primary lefty.

Sox would have gone to Mo?

In what would have been the latest storied chapter of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalary, reports indicate that Boston made a push to sign Mariano Rivera before the future Hall of Famer reached an agreement to stay in the Bronx. The Yankees haven’t announced their new deal with Rivera, but it is all but done, according to several media outlets.

Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com, citing a source with direct knowledge of the situation, said that the Red Sox offered Rivera two years at $30 million, but the righty turned it down before accepting a similar proposal from New York.

Edes added that under that scenario, the Sox would have non-tendered closer Jonathan Papelbon, who made $9.35 million last year and is entering his walk year. Papelbon is coming off the worst season of his career, as he blow eight of his 45 save opportunities.

But the Red Sox did wind up tendering Papelbon a contract in advance of Thursday night’s 11:59 deadline.  Deep down, Boston likely knew that it was very unlikely Rivera would leave the Yankees, particularly to go to their chief rivals.

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Is Thursday the end of Okajima in Boston?

The next deadline on baseball’s offseason calendar comes up on Thursday, when teams must tender contract offers to all their unsigned players, otherwise those players become free agents.

Without question, the most difficult decision for Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein will be what to do with Hideki Okajima. The lefty is coming off a poor season, but this is after he spent his first three years in the Majors as a rock. Oki made $2.75 million last year. By tendering him a contract, the Red Sox will essentially be committed to paying him around that same salary in 2011. If he repeats his 2010 level, he will be very underpaid.

Perhaps the Red Sox will meet with Okajima’s representatives — either in advance of tomorrow’s deadline or after — and work out a creative deal that might guarantee less money but give him a chance to earn a similar amount if he gets the job done.

The other decisions are straightforward. Of course Papelbon gets tendered, even if he did make $9.25 million last year and had an off-year. Unlike Oki, who is 35, Papelbon is just 30. He also figures to be highly motivated because it is walk year. And the Red Sox get two choice draft picks should Papelbon — undoubtedly a Type A free agent — depart after 2011.

And yes, Jacoby Ellsbury, coming off a year full of rib woes, will also be tendered in his first arbitration-eligible winter. Ellsbury made $496,500 last year, but figures to get a nice bump from that based on the success of his first two seasons and the projection that he will have another big year from the leadoff spot in ’11.

Elimination Night?

For the first time this season, the Red Sox have come to the park knowing that their postseason hopes could be cover by the time the night is over.

It has felt almost inevitable for a while, and it comes with some irony that tonight’s opponent is the White Sox. While many defeats have been crushing for Boston this season, I’ll always think that the finishing blow of this season came on September 5, that Sunday afternoon at Fenway against the White Sox when Jonathan Papelbon had the 48-pitch blown save.

Last night’s game at Yankee Stadium was the last straw, just a truly crushing defeat.

With the Yankees’ game starting one hour before Boston’s, the Red Sox could be eliminated before their game even finishes. If the Red Sox win tonight and the Yankees lose, their hopes — however slight — will last one more day.

Also, Manny Ramirez’s lack of impact with the White Sox has been nothing short of striking. He is hitting .242 with one homer and two RBIs since coming over from the Dodgers.

Just a bad night for Papelbon

All Jonathan Papelbon wanted on Tuesday night was some work. Due mostly to the way the Red Sox have been playing, he hadn’t pitched in exactly one week.

But instead of just getting work, Papelbon got worked by the Orioles in a disaster of a ninth inning. He came on with his team trailing 5-1 in the top of the ninth.

Not long thereafter, Papelbon had given up five hits and four runs over one inning, his ERA spiking from 3.39 to 3.92. Papelbon threw 18 pitches, 13 for strikes. The Orioles were, yes, aggressive.

“I don’t think it was rusty from not pitching in a week. I thought I went out there and threw some pretty good pitches,” Papelbon said. “I thought my delivery was pretty good. I thought I threw the ball well. I thought the ball came out of my hand well. The outcome wasn’t good, but I thought the way I threw the ball was.”
 
“If you look at the situation in the ballgame that we’re in, it is what it is. I was coming in trying to get some work in and that team came out swinging the bats and was ambushing some first pitches and there’s nothing you can really do about that. The whole outing kind of snowballed and the leadoff hitter, broken bat bloop hit. A couple pitches that I thought were good pitches, if not balls off the plate, they were filleted the other way, next thing you know, throwing error, ball back to me, and it kind of snowballed.
 
Save vs. non-save situation?

“I don’t think that affected me,” Papelbon said. “You can have a different mindset going in in a save appearance than when it’s not a save appearance, but it doesn’t affect the way you throw the ball.
 
There was one grounder where it seemed like Papelbon had a play at the plate. Even manager Terry Francona wondered if his closer lost track of the outs. Papelbon went to first. But he says that was the only play he throught he had.
 
“Well, he was probably going to be safe at home and I’m out there trying to get outs,” Papelbon said. “I’m already in a situation that’s knee deep. I’m not going to risk a play at the plate when I think he’s going to be safe. I’m already in a tight spot, so I’m trying to get the outs that I can get.  

And down the stretch they come — without Damon

It sure would have been fun to have Johnny Damon back down the stretch. There would have been an element of excitement, just because of the lightning rod he can be. Or perhaps Damon put it even better yesterday after explaining his decision to stay in Detroit.

“I texted with Varitek and I talked to Big Papi. And their whole thing is they want a spark,” Damon said. “They obviously feel like they need a spark. If I was going there, obviously, it’s going to be the biggest story in baseball to detract them from what’s going on the field, because the attention’s on me and my wacky self. But that’s not going to happen. That’s done.”

Can the Red Sox do it without Damon’s wacky self, even without Ellsbury, Youkilis and possibly Pedroia the rest of the way?

“This has been who we are, and it’s been who we are all year and we’re in the right place,” said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. “And it’s come down to the same thing it has all year: We throw the ball well, we present ourselves with good opportunities to win. And we have to continue to do that, and that’s going to be even more important over this next month and a week.”

Or as Jonathan Papelbon notes, maybe the urgency of the situation will inspire the team to do something memorable.

“I think that once the playoff race heats up a little bit more, we can kind of see where everybody is at on the scale of, if it comes up to a couple weeks, whether our backs are against the wall or not will really determine a lot in how we go out and play,” Papelbon said. “When this team’s back has been put up against the wall, I think that’s kind of when we’ve been at our best.”

“We’re trying, we’re trying,” said Ortiz. “We’re trying to play our best and everybody knows it. It’s a ride or die situation towards the end of the season. You have to win as many games as you can so you can be playing in October.”

Can they do it with this cast?

“It’s not like we have other options,” Ortiz said. “Of course, we’re battling and we have to ride with this.”

The ride starts today for a day-night doubleheader. A sweep would be a good start for the Sox.

Crazy night at Coors

Did some of you fall asleep before tonight’s four hour and 48 minute Red Sox-Rockies game came to an end? You missed a wild one.

There was Dusitn Pedroia, hitting three homers in a game for the first time in his life. He never even did it in Little League.

There was Jonathan Papelbon, blowing a save on back-to-back nights for the first time in his career, and blowing consecutive save opportunities for just the third time. Yet it was Papelbon who earned the win.

“Any time I’m running out of ink, that’s not a good sign,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “That was was … whooo, I’m glad we won. It was gutwrenching. A lot of good, some not so good but there’s something to be said for persistence. Pap goes out and he says, he’s sideways. Then he goes back out and gets them out. That was pretty awesome because that wasn’t easy to do. We were in the same situation they were. We warm up Richardson in the first inning and then we have to warm him up again. Everyone was on fumes.”

The Red Sox had run out of position players, but not resolve.

With Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez already being used in the sixth-inning implosion, Francona had to go with Scott Atchison in the seventh. The right worked a critical clean inning, helped by Jason Varitek’s strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play

“We could talk about nine million things,” Francona said. “Atchison was huge. We were kind of up against it. All we had tonight out of Bard was we wanted him to finish an inning and that’s what he did. We got caught. That six-run inning where we just couldn’t stop them. Oki comes in and atrually threw great and being late covering first ends up being a huge play. He threw the ball great.”.

The Red Sox are developing a strong personality. They suffer adversity but find a way to get up.

“There were a lot of things that happened tonight,” Francona said. “The word resilient keeps coming up. We didn’t do some things correct but we did enough.”

And no pressure on Tim Wakefield, but the Red Sox could sure use, oh, about nine innings at San Francisco on Friday night.

“That would help,” Francona said. “That would be really good. I’m sure we’ll have to sit down and go over some pitching because we’re a little short.”

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