|02.16.10 at 1:26 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Prior to the 2009 playoffs, Jonathan Papelbon wore his 0.00 career postseason ERA like a tattoo on his forehead. The Red Sox closer talked freely about how he held the number dear, how much pride he took in his run of 26 consecutive innings without permitting an earned run.
That defining streak is no more, much to the chagrin of Papelbon. He allowed three runs on four hits in the eighth and ninth innings of Game 3 of the American League Division Series, leading to a shocking 7-6 loss that led to the Sox’ ouster from the playoffs.
Papelbon, who arrived in Fort Myers on Tuesday and threw his first bullpen session since that game, said that he is using that failure as motivation for the 2010 season. He played it repeatedly in his weight room — having seen it, by his estimate, 100 times — as the sort of motivational fuel that he hopes will lead to the start of another streak.
“I guess all good things must come to an end,” said Papelbon. “I had a great streak in the postseason and it came to an end. I’m looking forward to starting that streak all over again for another four or five years, hopefully. That’s how I set my goals – to go on streaks. You go on those long streaks, not get in a rut, come out of them quick, that’s what it’s all about for me in my role.
“It didn’t make my winter tough at all. I’m able to turn the page pretty quick. 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 was using 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.’”
Papelbon, meeting with reporters at the Red Sox’ minor league training facility in Fort Myers, discussed that and a number of other topics, including:
–His hopes to remain with the Red Sox “for a long time…Of course I’d want to stay here for 15 years.” At the same time, he said that both he and the team were content to proceed in contract negotiations on a year-to-year basis. Though the specter of free agency looms following the 2011 season, however, Papelbon said that implications that he will get his money elsewhere one he reaches free agency are “a perception,” and that signing a series of one-year deals should not be seen as evidence that he wants to sign elsewhere.
–He acknowledged that he lost his feel for his split-finger fastball for long stretches of 2009, and that resulted in a fastball-heavy arsenal that did sometimes work to his detriment.
–He plans on using the mechanics that he employed down the stretch last year, which he felt allowed him both to use his legs more (thus saving his arm) while effectively locating his pitches.
Here is a transcript of some of the interview session:
What are your thoughts about coming in with a new contract?
Nothing changes really. I think you go out there, you show up in spring training in shape, do the same job I’ve been trying to do for the last four to five years. I don’t think anything changes. I don’t think anything, expect maybe the expectations are a little bit higher, but my expectations for myself are going to be higher than anyone else’s.
How often did you revisit the loss against the Angels?
A lot. It’s something that I used for motivation for me this offseason. What else can you do with it? It’s something that you’ve got to learn from and be able to move on. You’re always going to learn [more] from the innings that you struggle in than the ones you’re successful at.
How would you like to improve on last year?
There’s always room for improvement. For me, the biggest thing, I think, is being able to improve on my pitch selection. I think you can always improve on that. Studying the hitters, just like always, and keep trying to improve on your mechanics. If your mechanics are there, then I think everything else falls into place.
Did you get away from the split last year?
No question. No question. I think when you’re successful at one certain aspect of your game, and mine was being able to locate my fastball towards the end of the season, you’re successful with it, I tended to really kind of rely on that a lot. Until I got hurt with it, which was a big part of the season, I went with it. Hindsight’s 20/20 now, but obviously I’m going to take that into consideration, try to be a little more selective with my pitch.
Did you lose the feel for the splitter?
No question. That’s such a feel pitch. It’s a pitch that you have to throw a lot, just like a curveball. Any kind of offspeed pitch, it’s a feel pitch. There were times when I was choking it down a little too much and overthrowing it, and there were times when I was throwing it perfect. But like I said, that comes with experience, and this year I’ll be able to take that into the season right from the get-go.
Last year, you made mechanical adjustments to decrease the strain on your arm. Will you carry that forward into this year?
No question. I kind of fiddled around with that a little bit early in the season. My walks were up, and I went back to some of the things I knew best, and incorporated some of both aspects of being able to take some of the pressure off my arm and also me still being me, the pitcher that I am. This year, I’m going to be able to take that into day one, and hopefully that will be able to propel me through a successful season.
How much did the mechanical adjustments affect the feel for the split?
I would say it didn’t affect it much, because the split is more of a timing thing, coming out of your hand. With my mechanics, they were still on time. It was just being able to try to get used to something in a quick period of time, with two weeks left in spring training last year. Whereas this year, I know exactly how I’m going to go into the season and what mechanics I’m going to use.
Is it ever odd to you that even given the numbers you put up last year, there are questions about what wasn’t working for you?
I think there will always be those questions. For me, basically, results are everything. Whether I’m changing my mechanics or working on one thing or working on another thing, it all boils down to results in this game. Whether I’m loading up the bases and having to punch out three or whether I’m getting the first three guys out, it all boils down to results.
When you looked at the Angels game, was there one pitch that particularly bothered you?
No. You can’t really boil it down to one pitch. I think it’s more or less the way the entire outing went. You can’t sit there and say it’s one pitch, because each pitch sets up the next and so on and so on. It was just something to where, I guess all good things must come to an end. I had a great streak in the postseason and it came to an end. I’m looking forward to starting that streak all over again for another four or five years, hopefully. That’s how I set my goals – to go on streaks. You go on those long streaks, not get in a rut, come out of them quick, that’s what it’s all about for me in my role.
How tough was it to have a winter with the last memory being the Angels game?
It didn’t make my winter tough at all. I’m able to turn the page pretty quick. 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 was using 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.’
Did you watch the postseason after you guys were eliminated?
I didn’t watch a whole, whole lot. I tried to watch guys like [Mariano Rivera] and see what they were doing, try to keep track of it as best as I could. I didn’t watch a whole lot, like I said. But obviously Mo is one of those guys who I’ve idolized in the role, and what he’s done for the role, what he’s done himself as a closer. He’s got five rings. That speaks for itself. Everybody else that’s a closer out there is pretty much chasing him. I think he’s set the tone for what it is to be a closer, and I think he’s bridged that gap, from closers 10 years ago to closers now. He’s been able to do both and to bridge that gap. It’s fun to watch him. It’s fun to see how he goes about it, and it’s fun to kind of compete with him on a level of kind of staying up with him. If you can stay on the same field with him, you’re doing something right.
He’s had his postseason hiccups. Does that make it easier for you to put last year in context?
Of course. I’ve talked to [current Red Sox and former Yankees bullpen coach] Gary Tuck about that a lot. He was obviously with Mo for a greater part of his career. There’s a lot of little nuances that we talk about, from his game to my game. That’s what makes him who he is, and that’s what makes an athlete who they are – how they bounce back. In this game, that’s what’s going to test you to see what you’re made of. I take it all full steam ahead. It doesn’t affect me. I’m not going to take it into this season. My whole goal this season is to start a streak over again, see what happens from there.
Can you imagine pitching into your 40s?
Yeah, I can, but it’s not an easy thing to do. Mo, he just makes it look easy. He makes it look easy. Hopefully I will be able to, but only time will tell.
Did you ever ask the Sox where you fit into the long-term picture?
No, we never really got to that. I think it was the kind of thing where we both agreed that this year, we’d do the one-year deal. Both of us are happy with that. I think the Red Sox and Theo [Epstein] as a general manager have really recognized the importance of my role on the team. I’m very happy for that. I think that when both sides are happy, what more can you ask for? Only time will tell with the whole long-term deal. I’m not going to worry about that. I’m worried about this year, and like I said, my goal is starting that postseason streak over again. That was something that was near and dear to my heart, throwing up postseason zeros. But like I said, if both sides are happy, what more can you ask for?
Were you tempted to go to arbitration?
Not really. Just listening to my agents and following their advice. That’s what I pay them for. The Red Sox came through in a big way for me, and everyone’s happy.
Are you satisfied with the shape of the 2010 team?
With the guys [GM] Theo [Epstein] added this year, how could you not be happy with team going into season with?
How’s your arm, and how much throwing have you done?
My arm feels great. I went off the mound for 25 pitches, catcher in front of the plate. Everything was on time and feeling good. Can’t complain.
Now that the season has arrived, do you put away the video of the Angels game?
Done with it, moving on. I’ve got new short-term and long-term goals for this season and it’s time to rock and roll.
Did you ever watch Game 4 of the 2007 World Series?
I didn’t. You learn from your mistakes more than from the things you do good. That’s just it.
Have you ever used a loss as motivation before?
Yeah, throughout career have little defeats try to learn from become stronger. Think that was the biggest one to date.
How much did you work out over the offseason?
I worked out a lot this offseason. With every offseason that comes, you learn your body more and more. Another one of my goals is to learn my body and how to get through the 162-game schedule. Each game that comes, I’m learning that more and more.
Have you had any interaction with fans since the end of last year?
No, not really. I got out of there pretty quick. No fan, no media, no coach is going to put any more pressure on myself and what I do than my own self. They expect to win, just like I do. … If a fan or anybody is happy the way it ended, then something’s wrong with them. The whole goal is to try to come in and win a World Series. If you fall short, why is that fulfillment? I think everybody feels the way I would. It ended in a disappointing way and hey, we need to find a way to get it done this year.
What do you make of the perception that you will seek the biggest contract in free agency and leave the Red Sox after 2011?
I think that’s the perception, that I’m going to go somewhere else, but it’s all a perception. Right now this is the way it’s working out. It’s that simple. It’s one year at a time, it’s working out and both sides are happy. Why would you try to do anything else is my way of thinking. Of course I’d love to be with Boston for a long term.
But this is the way it is right now and I’m happy going one year at a time. This is the organization I started in. This is the organization that gave me the opportunity to play major league baseball. Of course I’d love to stay here for 15 years. Right now one year at a time is the way it’s working and I’m happy and everyone else is happy, so why not.
Was there any chance of a multi-year deal this offseason?
This year, both of us were kind of set on let’s do the one-year deal thing and go from there. I think that’s the way it’s working out best. And if something’s working out, let’s keep doing it this way. The biggest thing in this whole ordeal is you want both sides to be happy. You want to go out there with a good heart and a good feeling about the season. That’s the way I’m going out there this year. What more could you ask for?
How do you feel about the bullpen?
I think with us and our bullpen this year, we’ve got a lot of guys who can do a multitude of jobs. As relievers, you’re getting a constant workload. I think for us going to be able to lean on each other a little more this year. For the core group of guys, we’ve been together for a long time now. Learning the odds and ends is going to help us be more successful and have each other’s back.
Guys in the bullpen, it’s a special relationship down there. We all have each other’s backs and root for each other. It’s a different bond than a starter’s bond or between position players.
We have those themes going on and it builds that camaraderie that we’re all going to war together and we all have each other’s backs.
Do you like going year to year in contracts to give yourself added motivational incentive?
Not really. I think that for me, I’m trying to be the best. Whether I’m doing it or not, that’s my whole goal, to try to be the best. Ask any player, any pitcher that, everyone’s trying to be the best at what they do. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to be the best I can be one year at a time. That’s how it’s working out.
|02.16.10 at 12:33 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Tuesday morning, Joe Nelson had reintroduced himself to an old friend— one of four pitching mounds in the far bullpen at the Red Sox’ minor league training facility
“I remember coming over here in mid- to late March in ’04 trying to get a job and I threw on the same mound I did today,” Nelson said.
The circumstances surrounding his first bullpen session of the spring, alongside Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield, are dramatically different than they were the last time he toed the same rubber. But it was on that very same mound that Nelson’s professional life did an abrupt turn for the better.
It all started with one (very) early morning phone call back in March 2004.
“I called [then-Red Sox farm director] Ben [Cherington] at 5:30 in the morning and said ‘I’m three hours away and I’ll be there in three hours.’ I had already been to like three or four tryout camps, didn’t get signed, but I was throwing great and was healthy,” said Nelson, who had missed ’02 and ’03 with two labrum surgeries after breaking into the big leagues with Atlanta in 2001.
“So I called Ben and said ‘I’m showing up.’ I came over, had baseball pants on, a glove, cleats and a shirt. Rob Leary randomly came up to me and said ‘What are you doing here?’ He didn’t know who I was. I told him I talked to Ben and he said I could come throw even though he hadn’t really said I could come throw, I just woke him up.”
|02.16.10 at 11:13 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was a Daisuke Matsuzaka sighting Tuesday. After offseason of working at Athletes’ Performance in Phoenix, Matsuzaka appeared to be in good shape as he was followed to his SUV by a group of Japanese reporters.
|02.16.10 at 10:39 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield threw a bullpen session on Tuesday at the Red Sox minor league facility in Fort Myers.
|02.16.10 at 9:23 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Throughout my years of covering spring training, the drive to work there has featured many memorable moments. The constant invitation by the Calusa Nature Center to check out an albino raccoon. The taunting of all onlookers as I drive my Volkswagen convertible bug. And the reminder regarding the generation gap between myself and my son, who asked me what “those levers were” upon entering my rental car. (“Those, my son, are what you use to lower and raise the car window.”)
This year? The reminder that Mike Greenwell has a batting cage, along with witnessing for the first time somebody eat a 7-Eleven breakfast burrito. (Thank you, Joe Zarbano.)
As for what has actually happened, and might happen, involving baseball, well … did I mention Mike Greenwell has a batting cage that I drive by on my way to work?
Other than minor leaguers hitting in the indoor cages (including Ryan Kalish and Lars Anderson), player sightings have been few and far between in the early morning hours. Many of the pitchers — including Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz — threw bullpens yesterday, so on-field participation might be a bit different. (For an update on how those bullpens went, click here.)
First on the field was Beckett, who came out with pitching coach John Farrell and the pitcher’s trainer, Randon Hayes. Scratch that, farm director Mike Hazen actually was first out, playing soccer with his three young children.
Besides the players already mentioned throughout yesterday, also of note was the presence of a member of last year’s playoff roster, shortstop Gil Velazquez. Velazquez, who turned down offers from a few other teams because of his familiarity and comfort level with the Red Sox, had to play in a Mexican League other than the one he first tried out for because the team for which he was vying for a spot didn’t deem it necessary to give the infielder another chance to try out after he had to leave to be on the Sox’ playoff roster.
Another familiar face was pitcher Kason Gabbard, the key component in the 2007 trade for Eric Gagne who is now fighting his way back after various arm injuries, having pitched in the minors for the Sox after being traded back from Texas. Gabbard is working out with the minor leaguers. In case you forgot, the lefty was perhaps the Red Sox’ best pitcher for the late part of June and early portion of July in ’07, setting up the trade for Gagne.
Be back later with more updates and video. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @bradfo and @alexspeier.
|02.16.10 at 8:46 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The buzz around the ballpark is beginning to build as Red Sox players arrive to spring training. Check out some of the sights and sounds from Monday in this video.
|02.16.10 at 2:14 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The first player on the field at the Red Sox’ minor league training facility Monday was Jon Lester. Josh Beckett was the last player to exit the facility’s diamonds. In between the pair of pitchers the likes of Clay Buchholz, Manny Delcarmen, Kevin Youkilis, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon came, worked out, and left.
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein mixed in a meeting with reporters, and Bruiser the dog (a staple at the complex) roamed everywhere from the equipment truck to the alley ways of the makeshift big league locker room.
On the surface, it would appear to be a fairly uneventful day, perhaps only marking the moment in the 2010 season when players find themselves the most relaxed. Yet there were some aspects of the pre-pitchers and catchers that offered some insight to what awaits …
BUCHHOLZ: He hasn’t watched the video of his playoff performance, yet it left the kind of impression that might help the continued construction of an ace. It also doesn’t seem to hurt that Buchholz looks the part now, as well.
The pitcher walked into work Monday weighing 200 pounds, which was 15 pounds heavier than what he pitched at last season. By the time Buchholz left his workout he was down to 198, offering a reminder that he carried a different metabolism than that of his former linebacker-playing, 230-pound brother. Yet even though life at two bills might be fleeting, the strength and durability the righty is starting at offers continued optimism.
And the fact that it recently translated into a batting practice session at the University of California-Irvine in which the Anteaters managed just three foul balls suggests there might be something to this new body of Buchholz’s.
BARD: The reliever threw his seventh bullpen session at about 85 percent (which, as one reporter pointed out, would logically translate into 85 mph fastballs. He wasn’t thrilled with his command, but the overall outcome was encouraging. And then there is the changeup.
Bard identifies the change as a priority for the spring, having thrown it an estimated 20 times last season, including three occasions in the playoffs that would pay big dividends. He has had the pitch (which he compares to Beckett’s hard changeup), but he hasn’t had the mindset. That is what the reliever wants to change.
“There were so many situations where I would think, ‘OK, this kind of calls for for a changeup’, but if there’s a guy on second, an important run, I don’t want to get beat on my third-best pitch,” Bard explained. “I want to make it this year so I don’t have that feeling. If the situation calls for a changeup I have the confidence to get an out on it.”
BECKETT: Fresh off a weekend trip to the Daytona 500, Beckett executed his sixth bullpen session with great success. With trainer Mike Reinold, strength and conditioning coach Dave Page, and bullpen coach Gary Tuck looking on, the Sox’ starter popped in 59 pitches to catcher Dusty Brown with impressive life on his offerings.
While Beckett has yet to address his future with the Red Sox, or if there has been talks regarding a contract extension, he has clearly come into camp hitting the ground running, appearing to be in excellent shape.
EPSTEIN: There was little to no drama Monday, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for some eyebrow-raising at some point in spring training’s near future. And some of those issues that may be the cause for the impending intrigue were what Epstein touched on while holding an impromptu get-together with whatever media was in attendance.
- On Victor Martinez’s declaration to the Boston Herald that he wanted to sign with the Red Sox: ”If we were to have a closed-door approach and an attitude where we didn’t want to talk to our players and hear what was on their minds and we didn’t care what they were feeling or thinking, then it would be a concern. But we have an open-door policy here. We’ll have lots of conversations about everything, how he’s feeling and what’s important to him and what’s on his mind, everything. I’m sure we’ll have discussions about it.”
- On potential open spots on the roster: ”It’s hard to answer because, in some ways, you could say the whole bench, as far as how it’s structured and how it’s going to line up. There are a lot of different combinations we could go with on the bench, but that doesn’t mean every spot on the bench is a roster spot that’s open. Maybe one or two there and one or two in the bullpen.”
- On Mike Lowell’s presence on the team: ”I don’t know that it will be that dicey. As I’ve said, it’s one of those things that will take care of itself. Mike’s priority is our priority, which is to get him healthy. Until that happens, there’s really not much that can be done. He’s going to be a little bit behind everybody else because of the surgery he had. we’re going to do everything we can to help get him healthy. Once he gets healthy, it will take care of itself. If he’s really impressive and impressive to other clubs, maybe something can be worked out. If not, I’m sure there’s nowhere else where Mike would rather take a bit of a lesser role than here.” (Note: Lowell is playing catch but can’t yet swing a bat due to his surgically repaired thumb).
- On Daisuke Matsuzaka’s relationship with the organization: ”We’ve found that players that have come from a long professional background in Japan have elements of their own training programs that are important to them. It’s an ongoing process trying to find that middle ground. I think there’s better communication now. He’s got something to prove. He wasn’t healthy last year. He needs to do what it takes to get ready for the season. He worked hard this winter but that doesn’t guarantee results on the field. It’s important to him that he have a good year. His attitude is great. Any inference that he and the club are battling one another, that’s just not true. His attitude is great. Now it’s just a matter of doing it on the field and toeing the rubber. We’ll see how that goes.” (Asked about Matsuzaka’s condition, Epstein said, “I only saw him for a couple of minutes but he’s clearly worked hard this winter and shed some pounds.”)
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