Papelbon Looking Strong in Spring Training


Since Spring Training officially began on Tuesday, the Red Sox pitching staff has been impressing their coaches. The major league pitcher that has been the most impressive thus far has been the a player who has a lot to prove in 2010, Jonathan Papelbon. After his abysmal performance in last year’s ALCS, Papelbon has been waiting all off-season to get back on the field and put 2009 behind him.

Papelbon has been an outspoken member of the Red Sox since he became the permenant closer back in 2006. He has a tendency to say things that anger others, but people rarely question his results on the field. Even in a seemingly rocky 2009, Papelbon had a 1.85 ERA and saved 38 of 41 opportunities during the regular season. Papelbon’s struggles on the field angered and motivated him when training this off-season.

"I totally used the way last season ended for motivation. I’ve got it on tape, and I watched it 100 times in my weight room. I used it as motivation whenever I was feeling tired and weak in the weight room. I’d pop it on and say, ‘There’s still work to be done.’ – Jonathan Papelbon (Ian Browne,"

Papelbon’s issue in 2009 down the stretch was his inability to throw any pitch besides his fastball. No matter how strong your fastball is, if a major league hitter is expecting it, he can hit it. Papelbon steered away from his potentially devastating splitter for whatever reason, allowing hitters to sit on location, knowing that a fastball was certainly coming. If Papelbon wants to be successful in 2010, he must feel comfortable throwing his other pitches to mess with a hitter’s timing.

After some early back stiffness, Papelbon looked strong throwing batting practice on Thursday and was already thinking about mixing his pitches. Rob Bradford of tweeted on Thursday that “Papelbon [is] throwing some solid splitters in BP to Scutaro and Ellsbury”, which is a great sign this early in Spring Training.

It seems that Papelbon’s first postseason struggles will make him a better and stronger pitcher in 2010. If so, the Red Sox can let the 4-time all-star do what he does best and the coaches can focus on gaining consistency out of their set-up men, Bard and Okajima, and work on improving their middle-relief core. All early signs are looking good for the Sox pitching staff in Fort Myers, let’s hope that continues through November.