Papelbon not thinking about free agency


Papelbon not thinking about free agency

By SeanMcAdam

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 Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Quotes, notes and stars: Hill snaps tie and 0-for-20 skid with one swing


Quotes, notes and stars: Hill snaps tie and 0-for-20 skid with one swing

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 8-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park:


"After we got him an inning (Tuesday) night because he hadn't pitched in six days, we were not going to with the quick turnaround and get four outs from him,'' - John Farrell on whether Craig Kimbrel was available for the eighth inning.

"Taking three weeks off in the middle of the season is not easy for anybody. And the biggest thing with my shoulder is just trusting that it's strong and healthy.'' - Steven Wright on his struggles since coming off the DL.

"In a situation like that, you know they're going to try to get you to roll over on a double play. That's his job. For me, (my job) is to see the ball deep and put a good swing on it.'' - Aaron Hill, who had been 0-for-20 before singling home the go-ahead run in the eighth.



* The win was the Red Sox' 29th come-from-behind win of the year.

* The Sox improved to 13-3 against left-handed starters

* Hanley Ramirez became just the third Red Sox hitter since 1930 to erase a three-run deficit with a two-out grand slam

* Ramirez has knocked in 33 runs in his last 28 Fenway games.

* Dustin Pedroia enjoyed his fourth game with three or more hits in his last five games.

* Pedroia is 18 for his last 24 at Fenway.

* Jackie Bradley has a .941 OPS at home this season.

* Mookie Betts has reached safely in each of his last 19 games.

* Betts has 11 outfield assists this year and three have come against Tampa Bay

* Each one of Xander Bogaerts' last nine homers have come with two strikes.



1) Hanley Ramirez

Trailing 4-1, the Red Sox got a grand slam from Ramirez to give them their first lead of the game in the fifth. He later walked and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley had been scuffling and dropped back down to the No. 9 spot in the lineup, but broke out with a single, homer, double and two RBI.

3) Aaron Hill

Hill played a fine game at third defensively, and snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an opposite-field, run-scoring single to snap a 6-6 tie.


First impressions from Red Sox’ 8-6 win over Rays


First impressions from Red Sox’ 8-6 win over Rays

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park:

*The Red Sox got some much-needed contributions from the bottom of the order.

Aaron Hill was 0-for-20 when he came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, but slapped a tie-breaking single to right to put the Red Sox ahead to stay.

Batting ninth was Jackie Bradley Jr. who was 3-for-17 when he singled in the fifth, homered in the sixth and doubled home a run in the ninth, right after Hill's heroics.

The Sox have been carried offensively by the top four or five in their lineup, but that's a tough way to win.

At some point, others in the batting order have to contribute. The timing couldn't have been better than for that to start on Wednesday afternoon.

* Why was Junichi Tazawa throwing fastballs ahead 0-and-2?

Tazawa entered with the bases loaded and Logan Forsythe due. After two quick strikes, Tazawa kept throwing fastballs to Forsythe, who took the second one and lined it back up the middle for a two-run single.

Tazawa's best pitch is his split-finger, and it seemed like that would have been the more prudent choice there -- to get Forsythe to chase a pitch out of the zone.

It's doubtful that there were concerns about a split bouncing in the dirt and getting away from catcher Sandy Leon.


*Hustle counts.

The Rays lost out on a run in the third inning and it changed the game.

 With two outs, the Rays had Tim Beckham at second and Logan Forsythe at first when Kevin Kiermaier stroked a line drive to the gap in right-center.

Beckham jogged toward the plate, but at the same time, Kiermaier attempted to stretch a single into a double. His throw arrived in time for a tag to be placed on him as he slid into second.

Worse, from the Rays' standpoint, Beckham hadn't crossed the plate before the tag was applied at second, so what should have been an automatic run was not a run at all for Tampa Bay.





Sounds like Moncada will join Red Sox on Thursday

Sounds like Moncada will join Red Sox on Thursday

BOSTON - Without saying so directly, John Farrell broadly hinted that the Red Sox appear ready to call up Yoan Moncada as rosters expand from the current 25-man limit Thursday.

Farrell first noted that the Red Sox "need better production'' at third base, where both Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill have struggled mightily at the position.

Moncada, a natural second baseman, was shifted to third base earlier this month at Double A Portland. Moncada has a slash line of .285/.388/.547 with 11 homers and 27 RBI in 44 games.

Asked specifically about the chances of a call-up for Moncada, Farrell said: "We've talked about Yoan. And not just as a pinch-runner. It's an exciting young player, an extremely talented guy. There's all positive reviews and evaluations of him.

"When that major league experience is going to initiate, time will tell that. But in terms of playing the position of third base [in the big leagues], that conversation has been had.''

Previously, the Red Sox had resisted bringing Moncada to the big leagues, worried that he wouldn't be in the lineup often enough to continue his development. The Sox didn't want him to miss out on additional experience in the minors by playing only part-time in the majors.

But now that the minor league seasons are about to end -- Portland finishes Labor Day -- there's nothing in the minors for Moncada to miss.

"This is a different scenario than if it were July or early August,'' said Farrell. "The minor league season ends [soon], so is there benefit to him just being here? The answer to that is yes. Do you weigh playing 'X' number of games per week versus what he could be doing at Portland or Pawtucket? Well, that goes away [with the minor league regular seasons end].

"So, again, by all accounts, there's nothing but positives that could come out of experience here -- if that were to happen.''

 Moncada's promotion would be similar to the one experience by Xander Bogaerts in 2013, who was brought up in the final week of August 2013 and remained with the club all the way through the end of the team's World Series run that fall, taking playing time from struggling third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

 "For those who have been around this team for a number of years,'' said Farrell, "teams that have had success have always had an injection of young players late in the season that have helped carry the team through the postseason. I think Yoan would be in a similar category to when Pedey [Dustin Pedroia], when Jake [Jacoby Ellsbury] came into the picture. And Andrew (Benintendi) is already here, so I wouldn't separate [Moncada] out from that at all.

"In fact, he's a direct comparison [to those cases].’’

Farrell agreed that the arrival of a young, highly-touted player can inject some energy into a team in the throes of a pennant race.

"Absolutely, there is,'' said Farrell. "You've got a newness element. You've got, likely, above-average speed. You've got athleticism. You've got the unknown across the field on how does a given [opposing] team attack a given guy.

"In the cases we've talked about, it has been beneficial to us for the young player to come up. They find a way to contribute in a meaningful role. 

Without saying that [Moncada's promotion] is a definite, there's a lot [of positives]going for it.''

Farrell also acknowledged that the Sox have already held internal discussions about how Moncada would be utilized, given that the switch-hitter has been far more productive from the left side of the plate.

"We've talked about what's strong side, how do you look to best ease him in, so to speak,'' said Farrell. "We thought that with Benintendi, how do we best ease him in. Well, he blew the doors off of that one [with his early success]. So, if it happens, and if begins here soon, you'll all be aware.''

Farrell said the reports of Moncada's transition to third base have been encouraging despite three errors in his first nine games there.

"He's shown good range, an above-average arm,'' said Farrell. "Where there will be ongoing work and continued development, just as there was at second base, is the ball hit straight at him. That's just pure technique and fundamental positioning with hands and feet.

"But as far as range to his glove side, moving to third base, that seemingly has not been that big of a challenge for him.''