Papelbon catches up with former teammates
New Phils closer clarifies comments he made about Boston fans
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The time will eventually come -- May, in fact -- when Jonathan Papelbon will have to stare down some of his closest friends and try to make them look foolish in the batter's box.
But Monday in Clearwater -- the day Papelbon's Phillies entertained the Red Sox -- wasn't that day.
Papelbon, an All-Star closer in four of his six seasons in Boston, wasn't on the list to pitch in this game. Instead, he could reunite with his former team for the first time.
When the Red Sox took batting practice, Papelbon went out to left field and huddled with two teammates he shared a particularly strong bond with in Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. At one point, he had Ortiz doubled over in laughter. He also met with his bullpen coach of the last six seasons, Gary Tuck.
Boston comes to Philadelphia for a weekend showdown from May 18-20, and Papelbon will be amped up.
"I don't want to hear no texts. I don't want to get no texts. I want to be giving the texts," said Papelbon. "You know what I'm saying?"
A few weeks back, Papelbon got some Red Sox fans fired up when he stated in a radio interview that Philly fans "tend to know the game a little bit better" than Boston followers.
He clarified those comments for the first time on Monday. Well, he clarified them in Papelbon-esque fashion.
"Obviously, I wasn't trying to offend anybody, man. I'm just calling a spade a spade," Papelbon said. "I've been in the bullpen down there [enough] times in Boston to know this guy doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. And it happens in Philadelphia, too. I've been in the Philadelphia bullpen, but I was just simply saying because the American League is different than the National League, there's a little bit more thought process that goes along with that."
Papelbon figured his comments would be misunderstood, but he never did take misunderstandings like that very seriously.
"No, no, I knew it was going to be read that way. That's the thing. I didn't really care," Papelbon said. "The fans that know me in Boston ... it's kind of irrelevant. I'm not going to throw shots at Boston fans. They've been there for me for years. I was just making a statement. I was just making a statement, National League vs. American League. Bunting, I can't remember us bunting three times [with the Red Sox]."
He is at peace with no longer pitching for the Red Sox, but will always cherish the memories -- particularly that championship flag he helped put up in 2007.
"Man, I had a phenomenal run there," said Papelbon. "I think if ... obviously I've always had a short-term memory and I don't have the greatest memory and I've forgot a lot of things, but there's also a lot of things that I've enjoyed, and I have nothing but great memories from there. Awesome time."
Papelbon continues to maintain that the reason he wound up with the Phillies is because they came after him first.
"When the offseason hit, it was, 'You know what? I'm going to the first team that shows interest in me and I'm not looking back,'" Papelbon said. "You guys know me. I'm the guy that -- I go with what I think. I don't look back. No regrets. Some stuff I may have done was stupid. Some not. But I'm not going to look back. That's the way I approached this offseason."
Sure, he misses his friends from the Red Sox, and he will miss the intensity of the rivalry against the Yankees. But Papelbon said that things are good for him these days.
"I think for me, it's a little bit more peaceful, a little bit more easier to go to work on a day-to-day basis knowing what to expect for the next four or five years here," said Papelbon. "I think for me, it's made my job a little bit easier to go out there and perform. There was a transition period for me. There was a time where I had to get used to the guys in the clubhouse and get used to my surroundings, and once I was able to do that, it's been smooth sailing since."
What advice would he give to Andrew Bailey, the man who has been entrusted with replacing him in Boston?
"Just to stay on a one-track mind. Go day to day. Have a short-term memory. I mean, that's the life of a closer," Papelbon said. "That's the best advice I can give him. That's the advice I got from [Mariano Rivera] in my first All-Star Game."
Daniel Bard, the man who set up Papelbon so well the last three seasons, is hoping to move to the starting rotation.
"I've always said with Daniel, he's the type of pitcher, whatever he wants to do or put his mind to do, he's going to do it," Papelbon said. "It's pretty simple. He's got enough talent to do that and enough wherewithal and enough fight in him and competitiveness in him and everything else to do what he needs to do."
Papelbon invited Bard to go hunting with him during the winter, but joked that Bard "big leagued him."
By the coming winter, perhaps Papelbon will be inviting Phillies teammates to hunt with him.
As he looks ahead, he does so with enthusiasm.
"I'm excited for the new chapter in Philly," Papelbon said. "I'm excited for what's to come. I had a good run in Boston. It's time for a new chapter."