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Jonathan Papelbon believes in his former Red Sox teammates

02.18.12 at 3:06 pm ET


CLEARWATER, Fla. — The reaction of Jonathan Papelbon to the six Boston reporters who made the two-hour trip north up I-75 was totally understandable Saturday – on the occasion of his first spring training press conference with the Phillies.

“What the hell are you guys doing here?,” he teased the group at the beginning of his 23-minute session inside the Bright House Field media center.

The man who threw the final pitch of the biggest pennant stretch collapse in baseball history says the Red Sox won’t be affected this season. As a matter of fact, Papelbon said he expects his former team to come out stronger than ever this season to prove a point.

“They’ll be motivated, no question about it,” Papelbon said in his first spring training press conference Saturday with the Phillies. “There’s too many good guys in that clubhouse and too many competitors and too many guys who have too much pride to just lay down and say, ‘we can just come lay down.’ Those guys aren’t going to come into this season and just lay down. They’re going to work hard. There’s no doubt about it.”

He was honest as he always was in a Boston uniform, answering questions thoughtfully on 2011, his successor with the Red Sox and his former setup man for the last two seasons.

Still, there were questions about whether he has forgotten about the night the sinking liner off the bat of Robert Andino came out of the glove of Carl Crawford at Camden Yards on Sept. 28, ending the Red Sox season in stunning fashion. And there were questions about how much he knew of the clubhouse discord that became apparent days and weeks later.

“I don’t think it was a matter of being surprised or not surprised,” Papelbon said. “I know everybody has had their own opinion about that situation and what went on there. But nobody truly knows what was truly going on. I don’t even truly know because I’m worried about myself and doing my own job. Just because a team struggles or somebody struggles doesn’t mean they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Is that why we lost, no, that’s not why we lost because of what was going on in the clubhouse. That had nothing to do with it.”

Papelbon leaves behind Daniel Bard, who won’t move into his closer’s role but rather start spring training in the Red Sox rotation – a move Papelbon believes is perfect for him.

“I had a long talk with Daniel this offseason about that,” Papelbon said. “I’m excited to see what he can do. I think Daniel has a phenomenal, phenomenal career ahead of him. In my opinion, there’s no reason he can’t start. Daniel can do whatever he wants to do. He’s that good. He’s matured into a phenomenal pitcher. He’s only to get better. The sky’s the limit for him. It truly really is. He can really go out there and do anything he sets his mind to.”

As for Andrew Bailey, the new closer in Boston who spoke to reporters simultaneously in Fort Myers, Papelbon expects Bailey to thrive in the move from Oakland.

“He’s going to go now to a city, that on those days where it’s a day game and it’s September or August and the stadium is packed, he has no life in his body but as soon as he walks onto the field, that life immediately comes up,” Papelbon said. “He’s going to have that, which is going to be a huge positive for him. There again, everybody is going to have something to say as to whether he’s doing his job. He’s going to have to be able to play his own game. Andrew, he’s got all the talent in the world. He should be able to thrive in that environment.”

As for his new job as closer of the Phillies and handling the pressure of Philadelphia, Papelbon said he’s looking forward to the pressure.

“I like pressure. That’s what makes me tick, man. Pitching in this environment is what I enjoy. I don’t think any town, whether it’s Boston or Philadelphia is going to put any more pressure on [a player] than any fan or city will do. I think big league baseball players expect a lot out of themselves. I don’t think they’re going to expect any more than a town or city will.”

Read More: Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon
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