ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes caught up Jonathan Papelbon from his home in Mississippi on Wednesday, and the Red Sox closer had some very interesting things to say. Here are the Top 5 things we learned from Papelbon:
1. He's using last year's ALDS meltdown as motivation.
"I got a copy of it,'' he said, referring to footage of the horrific ninth inning in which the Los Angeles Angels rallied from a two-run deficit and eliminated the Red Sox in their AL Division Series, obliterating Papelbon's streak of never having allowed a run in the postseason in the process.
"I get it in my weight room at home and pop it in, use it as motivation,'' said Papelbon, who over and over has watched five Angels reach base, three of them scoring, the deciding two on Vladi Guerrero's sinking line-drive single. "Every time I'm in the gym struggling, feeling like [expletive], I look up at the TV, and it gives me a kick."
2. He did not know the Red Sox signed John Lackey until a few days ago.
"I had no idea we got [John] Lackey until [trainer Mike] Reinold came down to see me, just a few days ago,'' he said. "I swear to you. I don't know anything about the ballclub."
3. He is still willing to go year-to-year on a contract.
The Red Sox last offseason locked up young stars Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia to long term deals. They tried to do the same with Papelbon, offered him a two-year deal for about $14.75 million, within a couple hundred thousand dollars of what Papelbon was seeking. "I ixnayed their offer,'' he said.
So Papelbon will head back to salary arbitration and is in line for another big raise, one that almost certainly will make him the eighth Sox player to be paid $9 million or more in 2010.
"Heck yeah, as far as what me and my brain are thinking,'' Papelbon said, "but I haven't even sat down with my agents [Seth and Sam Levinson] yet. We don't even have a number in place. There haven't been any discussions between me and the Red Sox and my agents at all.''
Papelbon, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, said he is willing to keep going year to year until then.
"At the same time, I'm not afraid to show that, hey, I want to be with the Red Sox [in a multiyear deal]. I'd love to have that sense of security of being with a team and knowing, 'Hey, they want me, and I want them, let's have a happy marriage.'
"But what do I have to give up to be in that marriage? Understand, I'm in the prime of my career. Why would I give up something? I'd give up something if it's fair to both sides, but I want to do things for my fellow closers, just like Mo paved the way for me. I want every closer out there, man, to get every penny they deserve.''
4. He likes Daniel Bard, though he thinks the Red Sox will use him as leverage against him.
"The thing they'll probably pull is tell us, 'We've got an up-and-coming guy in [Daniel] Bard, this and that," Papelbon said. "That's fine with me. That's what they have to do in this cat-and-mouse game. But when you look at what I've done so far, you can't compare it to many other closers besides Mo [Rivera].''
5. He thinks he is one of the most consistent closers in the game.
"My whole thing is consistency,'' he said. "I'm not one of these guys with a sub-2 ERA one year and a high-3 the next. My whole thing in all of this is the environment you pitch in. Wouldn't you want a guy to pitch in Boston, New York and Philadelphia who you know has consistently had just three or four blown saves a year. That's a rarity in itself.
"If in the beginning of the year, you're in Boston or New York or Philadelphia, and somebody tells you this guy is going to blow only three or four saves all year, who else are you going to get to do that, you know?