Thursday, March 22, 2007

taking a closer look

Just goes to show you that once you think you know all about this game, you realize that you really have no clue.

In an announcement today, the Red Sox revealed that Jonathan Papelbon will be reprising his role as the baby-faced badass closer(those last words were mine, not theirs). I first got wind of this news when I rushed home to see the Sox play against the Phillies on ESPN this afternoon. Right as I get into the apartment and turn on the tube, Erin Andrews(and her sexy self) was telling Gary Thorne and Jonathan Kruk all the breaking news. I immediately let out a scream, followed by many, many, holyshit, holyshits.

Some of you might remember that Paps went down the last month of the season with a shoulder sublixation. According to both him and Tito, Papelbon's shoulder is many more times stronger now, thanks to his dedication to winter therapy and workouts. He will be monitored closely, and he will never pitch more than three games in a row. All the trainers and doctors on the Sox staff like this idea, and they would never sign off on this if they feared for his arm's safety.

Curt Schilling also posted a good read on Paps' return to the pen. I highly suggest reading it.

What is probably my favorite angle on this story is how the whole idea came about. It wasn't because Theo and Co. were panicking at the thought of Jole Pineiro closing out games in September when things were tight. It wasn't because Timlin is going to start the season out on the DL. And it wasn't because they didn't think Paps could handle the starting role.

Plain and simple, Papelbon is the closer again because THAT is where he felt he belonged. He said he hasn't been able to sleep well at all this spring because of his desire to close. After consulting his family and the captain, Paps walked into Francona's office on Tuesday and let him know how he felt. And since the Sox brass had been discussing this(just as an option) for some time, the transition was an easy one.

"This is something I'd like to do the rest of my career. Forget about starting. Go out (as a closer), chase records and hopefully do for the Red Sox what Mariano Rivera does for the Yankees."

On the flip side, Julian Tavarez will slide into the 5th spot in the rotation, but I don't think it will be a permanent one. Jon Lester has had an excellent spring amidst recovering from cancer, while Kason Gabbard and Kyle Snyder have also shown brilliance the past weeks. I firmly believe one of those three will supplant Tavarez by the All-Star break, and JT will move back to relief(where I think he fits best).

It's an exciting time to be a Sox fan, for sure. I guess we get to look forward to sub-0.50 ERAs, massive K-per-IP numbers, and the return of the Papelbon Save Meter. Oh, and how about an MVP candidacy?

I think I share Bill Simmons viewpoint when he says:

"I like feeling safe in the ninth, holding a trump card in every close game -- one who thrives in his particular job more than anyone else at any other position. Maybe it defies all logic, but I hope Jonathan Papelbon stays my team's closer for the next 15 years."

Well said, Bill. Now let's play some ball.

Currently Drinking: water,but very soon I'll have my hands on a home-brewed Dubbel from my father :)

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