By Sean McAdam
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After he turned in a clean inning Friday against the Yankees, it appeared as though Jonathan Papelbon had turned the corner from his poor outing a week ago against Minnesota, when he walked three in one-third of an inning.
Then again, perhaps not.
Papelbon struggled again Thursday in the Red Sox' 8-5 win over the New York Mets, giving up two hits and two walks, leading to four runs. Papelbon couldn't finish the inning and even one of the two outs he recorded required a nice running catch by Juan Carlos Linares.
The Sox' closer has been either very bad or very good this spring. In four of his outings, he's had clean innings and hasn't allowed a baserunner. In his other two, however, Papelbon has walked five and given up seven runs on four hits.
Papelbon insisted that he wasn't concerned despite the two rocky outings in the last week.
"No . . . nope . . . not one bit," he said. "I'm just basically trying to find my delivery and iron out the kinks before the season rolls around. That's basically it.''
Ironically, only weeks ago, when the Red Sox were still based at the Player Development Complex, Papelbon said he already felt locked in with his delivery, and remarked how unusual it was to feel that so early in camp.
"I don't feel I've fallen out of it,'' he said of his delivery. "I still feel very locked in. Right now, I'm just a tick off my mechanics. I'm not searching. I know exactly what's going on. I can feel it in my delivery.
"For me, it's not a big deal at all because I know it's a minor little detail for me.''
Papelbon said the spring training atmosphere, with little context or adrenaline, was perhaps a factor ('no question,'' he said) and one talent evaluator agreed, noting that Papelbon looked "disinterested'' on the mound Thursday.
"I thought today he just got out in front and was a little quick in his delivery,'' said Terry Francona. "Everything flattened out a little bit and his fastball started wandering a little bit. I think everything was flat today and good hitters don't need help elevating the ball.
"You fall behind and the ball's flat. That's what it looked like to me.''
"It's spring training,'' said Papelbon, "and I'm trying to get my delivery where it's perfect every day and right now, it's just not. It's still spring. It is what it is.''
Francona said Papelbon's next outing will probably involve throwing two innings at the minor-league complex.
"I think that will be good for him,'' he said.