Jun 11, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
Maybe that’s why he decided to let Tuesday’s night’s chance against the San Diego Padres linger a little longer than he should have. Entering the ninth with a three-run lead, Papelbon loaded the bases with two outs before finally closing it down with a ground ball by Tommy Medica (see game recap).
No harm, no foul.
And with that tightrope act, Papelbon became the 26th pitcher in big-league history to register 300 saves. Moreover, he did it in fewer games than anyone except for Trevor Hoffman.
Fittingly, Papelbon got No. 300 against Hoffman’s former team.
Nevertheless, Papelbon’s journey to 300 saves wasn’t exactly quixotic, though it wasn’t without its detours. A starter in the minors, Papelbon successfully lobbied Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein to move him to the closer role.
Perhaps closing games is what has kept Papelbon off the disabled list for his entire 10 years in the big leagues.
“It means a lot to me, more than what most people would probably think,” Papelbon said after escaping with his 14th save of the season. “I started this a long time ago and I was supposed to be a starter. Theo Epstein wanted to make me a starter and I told him I didn’t want to be a starter. It’s been a long journey since then. I don’t know how happy he was when I told him I wanted to do that, but it’s all turned out the way I expected it and hoped it would. I got to keep working hard and keep putting in the work to stay healthy and hopefully try to get another 300 if I stay healthy.”
In Phillies history, closers have been more like Haley’s Comet than Old Faithful. Jose Mesa has the franchise record with 112 saves, notching 87 of them in his first two seasons with the team. Brad Lidge left Philly with 100 saves and 41 of them came during that magical 2008 season.
With 81 saves in a little more than two seasons and a contract that runs through 2015 with a vesting option for 2016, Papelbon could blow past Mesa’s record. Considering Papelbon’s ability to stay off the disabled list, there’s no reason why he can’t match Hoffman’s mark of 601 saves. After all, Hoffman got all but 10 of his saves in 14 of his 18 seasons and missed nearly all of the 2003 season on the disabled list.
Though Papelbon has lost a little off his fastball and he struggled in Tuesday’s game, he has converted all but one of his save chances this season. Better yet, Papelbon has posted a 1.48 ERA and has 12 1-2-3 innings in his 25 appearances.
Despite this, Papelbon’s strikeout rate is at a career low and his walk rate has doubled since last season. However, Papelbon has allowed just two extra-base hits this season and has held the opposition to a .195 batting average. Even at the start of his career when he was taking over the role as closer for the Red Sox, Papelbon only held opponents to a lower batting average just once.
So how does he stay healthy and convert saves even though his fastball isn’t as sharp?
Easy. It’s all upstairs, Papelbon said.
“It’s a mental grind and you have to stay focused the best you can,” Papelbon said. “There is no way to really duplicate a game-on-the-line type situation, but for me I just try to stay focused. It’s more mental than physical.
“That’s one of the main reasons why I decided to become a closer. I don’t know why, but I like the rollercoaster ride and it is what it is. I like coming to the yard every day knowing I have a chance to go in there or not. It’s hard to explain.”
It also helps that the closer’s role is much more refined than it once was. Papelbon, Hoffman and the all-time saves leader, Mariano Rivera, rarely pitch more than one inning. Bruce Sutter, the Hall of Fame pitcher who finished his career with 300 saves in 12 seasons, rarely worked so little. In fact, in his 661 games, Sutter pitched more than one inning 407 times.
In 1984, Sutter appeared in a career-high 71 games and pitched 122 innings. Papelbon got to 131 innings in his first 131 games with the Phillies.
For that, Papelbon gave praise to Rivera for redefining the role and allowing pitchers like himself to save more games and have longer careers.
“The closer’s role is what it is today because of Mariano Rivera. There is no other man that is solely responsible for it but him,” Papelbon said. “In my opinion, he made the role what it is today and I’ve told him many a time that he’s the godfather of all closers. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be in this type of situation today. When I was in Boston, I used to joke with him all the time. He’d come back for another year and play and it seemed like he had some kind of fountain of youth over there in Panama. He made it harder and harder for me every year. Everyone’s chasing him, so hopefully one day I can get somewhere close to him and we’ll see what happens if I can stay healthy.”
It’s worth noting that Mesa ceded the closer’s role to Mike Williams at the end of his tenure in Philadelphia. And Lidge gave way to Ryan Madson at the end of his time in town. Working on his third season, Papelbon isn’t looking over his shoulder yet.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Paxton has begun his career by going 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA in six starts dating back to last season’s debut.
Aug 1, 2014, 9:24 AM EDT
He’s probably the fifth starter on this Tigers team at the moment. So why not?
Aug 1, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT
A good trade, I think, but it probably wasn’t handled 100% perfectly.
Aug 1, 2014, 8:27 AM EDT
A rule that was designed to protect catchers is being used as a weapon against them.
Aug 1, 2014, 6:35 AM EDT
A good day for Clayton Kershaw. A bad day for Cliff Lee, Tyler Skaggs and Eric Hosmer.
Jul 31, 2014, 11:24 PM EDT
Royals robbed of their hottest hitter after quiet deadline day Thursday.
Jul 31, 2014, 11:19 PM EDT
Cliff Lee has aggravated the flexor pronator strain that has already cost him two months. It’s safe to say that his season is over.
Jul 31, 2014, 10:31 PM EDT
C.J. Wilson landed on the disabled list earlier this month due to an ankle sprain, but he’s due to rejoin the Angels’ rotation on Saturday.
Jul 31, 2014, 10:12 PM EDT
Keeping score in the aftermath of Thursday’s deadline deals.
Jul 31, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT
The arms race between the Athletics and Tigers is just too much fun.
Jul 31, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT
Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs was working on a no-hitter against the Orioles this evening before he left his start with forearm tightness.
Jul 31, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT
Yoenis Cespedes t-shirt night is a little awkward now that he’s with the Red Sox, but the Athletics are going ahead with the giveaway anyway.
Jul 31, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT
For some reason, FOX 13 in Tampa Bay thought it was a good idea to make a classless joke about Detroit to console Rays fans following the David Price trade.
Jul 31, 2014, 6:16 PM EDT
Matt Cain’s ulnar collateral ligament has checked out fine, but he’s dealing with “loose bodies” in his throwing elbow and it’s unclear when he’ll pitch again.
Jul 31, 2014, 5:28 PM EDT
Once upon a time Andy Marte was one of the best prospects in baseball. He cracked Baseball America’s top 15 list in 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Jul 31, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT
You happy, Philly?
Jul 31, 2014, 4:52 PM EDT
The Braves get their lefty and a venerable super sub. The Cubs get an interesting catching prospect.
Jul 31, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Shortly after acquiring Stephen Drew and Martin Prado in separate trades this afternoon the Yankees announced that starting second baseman Brian Roberts has been designated for assignment.
Jul 31, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Some pitching heading Miami’s way.
Jul 31, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
All month the assumption has been that the Twins would either sign Kurt Suzuki to a contract extension or trade the 30-year-old impending free agent in the middle of his career-year.
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 23
- Cliff Lee placed on DL with recurrence of flexor pronator strain 25
- Winners and losers at the trade deadline 33
- 2014 Trade Deadline Tracker 49
- ACES GALORE: The Rays trade David Price to the Tigers 137
- Red Sox trade John Lackey to Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly 89
- The Lester trade is a win-win 112
- Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes heading to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes 165
- “Caucasians” t-shirts are hot sellers on Canadian Indian reservations (199)
- Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes heading to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes (165)
- ACES GALORE: The Rays trade David Price to the Tigers (137)
- Rangers’ retirement gifts for Derek Jeter: Yankees cowboy boots, signed George W. Bush photo (126)
- Tampa Bay news station tweets classless Detroit joke following David Price trade (120)