December 16, 2006

Theo on Papelbon's Role

There has been some question as to whether Jonathan Papelbon could return to the bullpen if the Red Sox don't find a tried and true closer.

Not that they need a household name in that role. Theo Epstein: "It's too early to start assigning exact roles other than to say that the guys who are pitching the best will have the most important roles."

Epstein on WEEI yesterday:
The determination we made in September when he had the subluxation was a medical determination based on the way his shoulder looked at the time that certainly he had a much better chance of returning to health and maintaining good health through a starter's routine -- building up strength in the shoulder, only having to pitch once every five or six days, getting on a shoulder strengthening program between starts and being able to have a very regimented maintenance routine.

That certainly is the best way to attack this specific condition. He's already started that. He's had a fantastic winter so far with the shoulder and it's really strong.

The single most important thing is his long-term health and as long as that determination is still valid -- as long as the medical people think that condition would be best-served with a once-every-five-days routine -- then he's going to be a starting pitcher.

I guess it's fair to say, "Never say never." We want to take a look at Jonathan again and will examine him again soon and examine the condition of his shoulder. But I think we really can't go wrong. As a starter, which is what we groomed him to be, I think he has a really high upside. And obviously everyone saw what he could do as a closer last year -- one of the best in baseball.

We can't go wrong. We just can't get greedy. We have to let what's best for his long-term picture determine the decision.
In addition to his shoulder, I believe the Red Sox believe that Papelbon is a greater asset to the team as a starter.


L-girl said...

Last year I was completely prepared to transfer my Lost Closer Love to Mr Papelbon. Having had the Great Closer Experience, I held out longer than anyone in the arguments over how he should be used. But even I gotta admit what Theo says here makes a lot of sense.

grumble grumble

Anonymous said...

The question is whether it is better for him to pitch 200 + innings as a starter or if his shoulder would hold out for him to pitch 60 + as a closer. I think he has the tools to be a solid # 2 and go 200+ in the 3.7 ERA range.

Last year if Foulke had been anywhere near his 2004 level we would have seen him as a starter.

NY papers are saying the Yankees are going after Gonzalez. That closer position is starting to be a problem if this is true.

Jack Marshall said...

Since you all know I don't have any problem with sounding like a broken record (witness my incessent "make Papelbon a starter rather than trotting noodle-armed meatballs out to pitch 2 out of every 5 days!" chorus last season, let me repeat: There are definitely competent closers available that we've never heard of in that role because people have never given them a chance. And with the exception of Rivera, established closers are about as likely to collapse after a big year as they are likely to repeat it. Again I quiz you all: who was the last Sox closer who was genuinely outstanding for more than one year consecutively? Dick Radatz, 1962-64!
Not Bill Campbell, Bobby Ojeda, Lee Stange, Don McMahon, Derek Lowe, Tom Gordon, Keith Foulke, Lee Smith,Heathcliff Slocumb, Jeff Reardon, Ken Ryan, Jeff Russell, John Wyatt, Bob Stanley, Dick Drago, Mark Clear, Tom House, Rob Murphy, Calvin was The Monster (now to be known as Monster Sr., I guess,) more than 40 years ago! Meanwhile, the Sox have gotten really good years from unlikely one year closers like Tom Burgmier and Jim Willoughby. The Red Sox had Chad Fox rotting in the bullpen, then he changed leagues and was an effective closer until he blew his arm out. Todd Jones was used by the Sox as a mop-up man. The White Sox ran away with a pennant with Dustin Hermanson as their closer for most of the season...the Sox had him, too. They had Mike Gonzales..they had Cla Merideth. Wanna bet that they don't have someone now waiting to leave in Theo's next panic sale?

Maybe Gabbard can close. Maybe Hansen has grown up. Maybe Delcarmen is up to it. Maybe Donnally just had an off year; if so, he can close.

It will be stupid, stupid, stupid for the Sox to give up a lot (and I regard Wily Mo as "a lot") for an established closer, who the odds say is as good bet to do a Byung Myung Kim as he is to pitch to form, BEFORE they've checked the cupboard and seen whose available.

As I said, broken record. But explain to me why I'm wrong.