May 25, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (58) reacts after recording the final out against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Papelbon's Return To Fenway Is A Watershed Moment


As the Red Sox and Phillies get down to business for some inter-league play, former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon returns to Fenway Park for the first since his post 2011 season departure for greener pastures. Pap signed a four-year, $50 million deal with Philadelphia with no counter offer from the Red Sox just days after the end of 2011 season. Papelbon, Boston’s most successful closer, had saved 30 or more games for the Sox in six straight seasons, 219 in all.

Since then a cavalcade of closers – Bobby Jenks, Andrew Bailey, Joel Hanrahan Alfredo Aceves – have attempted to duplicate Papelbon’s success, all coming up way short. During Boston’s weird two at home and two in Phllly series against the Phillies, Papelbon is sure to see action. Until the beginning of game one against Boston, the reception he’d receive was up in the air.

“Hopefully I’ll be received well,’’ Papelbon told the cluster of reporters assembled in the visitors’ dugout Monday afternoon. “I will also accept the fact I might not.” (Full ESPN Papelbon article can be found here.) That question was answered before tonight’s game as Papelbon received a standing ovation.

I’ve got to agree. Say what you want about about Pap, he was a key stabilizing component in Boston’s bullpen for six years and a primary cog in the  2007 World Championship season. He continues to be very good for the Phillies.

Pap has appeared in 18 games, is 9 for 9 in save opportunities and has a ridiculously low 0.96 ERA this season. Opponents are batting .159 against him. Bottom line: Pap remains one of the premier closers in the the majors. I contend that Boston should have signed him to a similar deal that he struck with the Phillies. Hindsight, of course, is 20/20 but who would you rather have closing for the Red Sox right now, a durable, consistent Jonathan Papelbon or a dinged up Andrew Bailey?

With the first Sox/Phllies game underway and Boston currently up 3-1 on a Dustin Pedroia two-run homer and a Mike Napoli solo shot in the first inning, perhaps this game may not be the one in which Pap makes an appearance.  If Red Sox Nation is lucky Pap will never make an appearance over the next four days.

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