By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Thought the idea of Jonathan Papelbon returning to the Red Sox was just a silly, futile sports radio talking point? You thought wrong. Manager John Farrell confirmed Tuesday night that he has had “internal discussions” with Papelbon and the team about a possible reunion.
Though Papelbon clearly would not supplant Craig Kimbrel in the closer’s role if he came back to the Red Sox, that might not be as clear to, well, Papelbon. The former Red Sox, Phillies and Nationals closer has not built the best reputation as a teammate or clubhouse guy and probably still feels he has the stuff to close games. Farrell subtly shut that down, while acknowledging that Papelbon could, at least, handle the pressure of pitching in Fenway Park.
“Pap is a unique guy in many ways,” Farrell told reporters after Tuesday’s win over the Baltimore Orioles. “But [he is] a guy that thrives in the moment, thrives to be in critical spots in the ballgame. While that closing role may be a thing that’s behind him, the intangibles of the competitor haven’t changed.”
Overall, Papelbon is in the midst of his worst season as a major-leaguer. However, he had a 2.56 ERA through July 23, and since that date has allowed eight earned runs in jut 3 1/3 innings – for an ERA of 21.60. Maybe this latest run isn’t what Papelbon really is right now, but it certainly played a role in his release from the Nationals.
If Papelbon just fell off a cliff in terms of his ability, then he may be worthless to the Red Sox. If he’s got anything left, the team might give him a chance, if you’re to believe what Farrell is saying. But if your bullpen is possibly looking to Papelbon as an answer to their problems, that’s a scary thought.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.