Papelbon not thinking about free agency

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Papelbon not thinking about free agency

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Since the time he was first eligible for salary arbitration, Jonathan Papelbon has seemingly been hurtling toward free agency, eager to test the market and determined to set a new salary standard for closers.

But now that free agency is just nine months away, Papelbon is almost disinterested at the prospect. Instead, he said Sunday, he's intent on focusing on the 2011 season, regardless of whether it's his last as a member of the Red Sox.

"It's not something that I'm going to really think about,'' Papelbon said. "The biggest thing I'm focused on right now is getting ready for the season and putting myself in a position to help this ballclub.

"For me really, I'm not really concerned about that right now. I know that all the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place after this year is done. Yeah, there's a possibility that I could stay. Yeah, there's a possibility that I could leave. But at the same time, I'm thinking about the possibility of winning a championship. I think that kind of throws everything out the door.

"I honestly am not going to think about free agency. I saw the acquisitions that Theo Epstein made. We're in a position where it's put-up, or shut-up. He's given us all the tools to go out and succeed. If I'm worried about free agency, or David Ortiz is worried about getting another deal or someone else is worrying about this, that or the other, we won't be the team we're supposed to be.

"Is it human nature to think about those things? Of course, it's human nature. But to think about them, and to sit there and dwell on them are two different things. Are you going think about them? Of course. Yeah, we're human. But to sit there and dwell on it and think, 'Is this going to happen? Is that going to happen?' I don't think that will be the case.''

From the outside anyway, Papelbon's offseason was an eventful one. There was the Red Sox' quiet but real interest in his mentor, Mariano Rivera. There was the signing of free agent Bobby Jenks, who might serve as his replacement in 2012, if not sooner. And there were trade discussions involving him with at least two teams.

But while the speculation and rumors were swirling, Papelbon did his best to ignore it all.

"For me, I just tried to really worry about what I needed to do to get ready for the season,'' shrugged Papelbon. "I think that's all I really could do. I don't think there was much else I could do but put myself in a position to go out and be the best I can be and be in the best shape I could be.

"It was pretty exciting. There was a lot going on. But for me, I kind of tucked away in Mississippi and tried to get ready for the season . . . The whole situation this offseason is part of the game. This is what happened, this is what goes on. You can't let feelings get in the way. I just try to stay focused on getting myself prepared to pitch and being the best I can be and come back this year and have a better season than I did last year and get back to proving to everyone what kind of closer that I am.''

Papelbon's 2010 didn't qualify as disastrous. He still managed to make 38 saves. But he led the American League in blown saves with eight and compiled an ERA of 3.90, the highest of his career.

It was enough to create speculation that Papelbon's best days as a ninth-inning force of nature were behind him, and in turn, led to the Sox seeking alternatives.

"I think every season, you definitely reflect on the kind of season you had,'' said Papelbon. "For me, obviously it was a down season. But I think you tend to take things from each season and try to learn from them. For me, I definitely took some things with me that I'm going to try to do the same, and some things that I'm going to try to do different this season.''

He kept the videotape study to a minimum over the winter, in part because he traced most of his difficulties in 2010 to some midseason mechanical flaws which were eventually corrected.

"I kind of lost my delivery toward the middle part of the season,'' he said. "But I'd say the last three weeks of the season, I got it right back. My feel at the end of the season was right there, so I stuck with that and tried to carry that into the offseason. So I really didn't look at much tape and try to change things.''

Perhaps even more encouraging is the fact that, already, Papelbon feels in sync with his body on the mound.

"From my first bullpen,'' he said, "the delivery is right where I was at the end of the season. I was throwing the ball really well at the end of the season, so I'm going to stick with that. For me, it's really rare to be set mechanically so early in the spring. If I can stay locked in this early, it will put me in a situation to stay healthy and pitch deep into the season.''

Meanwhile, Papelbon anchors a bullpen which has added veterans Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks to the existing pen which features Daniel Bard. The addition of Jenks will be a significant one, Papelbon believes.

"I think he's going to have a huge role on our team this year,'' Papelbon said, "and he's going to be a huge instrument for our success. I think he's going to have a big role on not our team's success, but my success. When you add a guy like Bobby and what he can bring to this team, I think it kind of speaks for itself.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

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Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels:

QUOTES

* “He just had very good command the entire night. Stayed ahead in the count [and] pitched to all quadrants of the strike zone. He used his four-seamer in on some powerful right-handed hitters in their lineup.” John Farrell on Rick Porcello’s performance.

* “We needed a win bad and swung the bats well and played good defense. That’s a big win for us.” Rick Porcello said after his win in an interview with NESN.

* “24 hours ago we were probably in a much different place mentally after a ball game like tonight.” Farrell on the win.

“That was probably the first time I sat on off-speed pitches this whole year. I took a chance, took a gamble.” Jackie Bradley Jr. said on his home run.

NOTES

* Rick Porcello completed his first game in a Red Sox uniform in the 6-2 win. The CG was the fifth of his career and his first since he threw three in 2014. The righty has 14 wins, one win shy of tying his career high.

* Xander Bogaerts had his first multi extra-base hit performance of the season since June 11. He’s only done that twice this season. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

* David Ortiz logged his 85th RBI of the season in the win and Mookie Betts his 67th. Heading into Friday night’s game, the two were one of five pairs of teammates ranking in the top 20 in RBI. The list includes Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, Adam Duvall and Jay Bruce and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

* Dustin Pedroia has now reached base safely in 32 straight games.

STARS

1) Rick Porcello

Porcello had his first complete game in a Red Sox uniform, stopping Boston’s losing skid at four games.

2) Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts finished with a double and a home run -- the only Boston hitter with multiple hits. He also led the Red Sox with three RBI and scoring twice in the win.

3) Dustin Pedroia

In addition to walking in his first two at-bats, Pedroia had a base hit -- and another walk -- scoring twice on the night.

First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

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First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

First impressions of the Red Sox 6-2 win over Los Angeles:

Rick Porcello is not fazed by his fellow staff members’ struggles.

Although his teammates continue to deal with frustrations on almost a nightly basis, Porcello got the job done and put Boston in a position to win once again.

The second-inning double by Daniel Nava should have been a single, had Jackie Bradley Jr. not misplayed a funny hop. If that hit is a single, the next ground ball is a double -- and the following grounder ends the inning.

One of the most impressive components of his outing was dealing with Cole Kalhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to finish his outing after already facing them three times on the night.

Xander Bogaerts had his first multi-hit game in a week.

Which in the grand scheme of things isn’t a long time -- but that can feel like a long time given the shortstop’s output this year.

It was also his first multi extra-base hit performance since June 11.

Oddly enough, those are his only two games of that kind this season.

In addition to the win, Porcello did the bullpen a favor.

Not necessarily because the relievers needed rest, but with Ziegler’s last two rough nights, they could use a break.

Although Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz got warm late, it was more so to keep them fresh for the coming games since they haven’t thrown much.

Additionally, he gave an example for the Red Sox starting rotation that they are in fact capable of going the distance.

Tim Lincecum is barely a shell of what he used to be.

That first inning was hard to watch. The former Cy Young Award-winner threw eight straight balls, and somehow managed to work past. Even his final throw to first base in he opening frame looked like it was going off the mark.

Just hard to watch in general, which made it all the more shocking that the Red Sox couldn’t score against him.

Good for them that he never adjusted, and they took advantage of it in the ensuing innings.

Merloni: ‘Missed opportunities left and right’ for Red Sox

Merloni: ‘Missed opportunities left and right’ for Red Sox

Lou Merloni talks about the Red Sox losing 6 out of the last 7 games and if David Price should have stayed in the game for the 9th inning.