Jonathan Papelbon: You make my heart sing

Had a lunchtime meeting today to review an event we’re planning at BU, and as soon as I took my seat, I was put on the spot.

"So Kelly… Papelbon in the rotation.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?"

I went through the basics: how incredibly valuable the innings of starting pitchers are, how it’s not the worst thing in the world not to know your closer before the year starts, how he can better manage his shoulder strength starting (at least for now), and how closing still isn’t totally ruled out.  But it got me thinking about this remarkable young man.

I was fortunate enough to be at Fenway when he made his major-league debut:

July 31, 2005.

it was an extraordinary day, and I think his performance was all but overlooked in the trade-deadline Manny furor.   But it was the first of many good outings for the long-awaited prospect.

October 2, 2005.

After the season came to a crashing halt, I took the money I got back on my ALDS Game 4 ticket and sponsored two pages at Baseball Reference: Craig Hansen and Jonathan Papelbon.

Got to see him in Spring Training 2006, of course.

March 17, 2006.

April 1, 2006.

I still delight in remembering the Boston media’s efforts to create a
closer controversy about the switch from Foulke to Papelbon, and the
magnificent response of Red Sox nation, who were far too busy watching
our newest phenom.

I did joke quite a bit through the year about the way Mike Timlin appeared to have adopted him–not that this was a bad thing.

May 5, 2006.

May 23, 2006.

In Atlanta, I was struck by the fact that Jonathan came out to sign every day.  He may have been a budding superstar, but he was a genuinely nice young man as well.

And it was a delight to see him close out Jon Lester’s first major league win.

June 16, 2006.

Even if I personally wish he’d kept a little more hair!

June 17, 2006.

He accepted some good-natured ribbing about being busted doing the tomahawk chop at the Ted…

June 18, 2006.

(well, he accepted it for a while, anyway!)

It’s hard to explain how electric Fenway became when he pitched, or how many Papelbon jerseys and shirts appeared in a matter of months.

July 29, 2006.

He was playful tossing the ball around…

August 11, 2006.

… intense as ever on the mound…

August 13, 2006.

and relaxed off of it.

September 29, 2006, not letting Timlin get away with the long pants.

September 1, 2006.

September 1 was the last day in 2007 we saw Jonathan Papelbon pitch for the Sox.  i was there to see that last outing; I won’t soon forget him dropping to his knees there, and I was greatly relieved to learn that the problem wasn’t worse. 

Of course we all know that whatever is best for Jonathan’s health and durability is best for the Sox, and I know he’ll bring the same skill and intensity to the mound as a starter.   But I’m grateful for that stellar year as a closer, and I bet he is, too.


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