By Maureen Mullen
FORT MYERS, Fla. Jonathan Papelbon knows he has something to prove this spring. But, it has nothing to do with last season, when he posted career-worst numbers in several categories. It has nothing to do with the addition of Bobby Jenks. It has nothing to do with the emergence of Daniel Bard.
I think every year you got something to prove, man, he said. Im not coming into spring training saying, Everything is going to be handed to me and I dont have anything to work on, and I dont have to go out there and prove anything. Every year every player has something to prove, regardless if youre in a long-term deal, youre not in a long-term deal, you had a good season last year, you didnt have a good season last year. I think every player comes in trying to prove their worth every year.
Papelbon didnt have a good season last year. He knows that.
I wouldnt say the word discouraging, he said. I would say for me I wasnt discouraged. I tried to search for answers too much and obviously as a athlete you cant do that. I never got discouraged. I always was trying to better myself and find out the next answer. At times it was a little bit of overkill for me and thats why Im coming into this spring trying to simplify my delivery and everything else that goes along with it.
It has worked so far. In one inning against the Marlins Saturday afternoon in the Red Sox 11-2 loss to the Marlins at City of Palms Park, Papelbon faced three batters, striking out one. He has not given up a hit, a run, or a walk in two outings, spanning two innings, this spring.
I think the biggest thing Im pleased with is my fastball right now, he said. The balls coming out of my hand really well and got that late life to it which is always a plus for me. Ive been able to get out there and throw my slider and split just as much, which has been a key for me because its something Im going to have to definitely be able to do this year. Both of those pitches feel really well.
Manager Terry Francona was pleased with what he saw from his closer.
I thought Pap was really encouraging, he said. His direction to the plate, the ball was down and you didn't see that fastball wandering.
That late life on Papelbons pitches was missing for most of last season.
My delivery wasnt on time, he said. Timings everything and I didnt have that timing last year.
He has it now, and would like to continue working on it.
I dont really want to work on anything else next, he said. I just want to continue to repeat my delivery and continue to work on my other pitches and continue to be on time with my delivery. I think thats going to be the main focus this spring, is just being able to go day in and day out and repeat the good delivery.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen