YOUNG CLOSER SETTING STAGE FOR RED SOX HISTORY
In just his third season as the Red Sox closer, Jonathan Papelbon is already poised to make Sox history. After his 10th save in 10 chances on Monday night, Papelbon now has 82 career saves. And before this season is over, Papelbon could very well move into second place on the team's all-time saves list.
Possessing a fastball that has been clocked at 99 miles per hour, plus a nasty split and changeup, Papelbon is arguably the premier closer in baseball right now. Surely, he is the best closer most fans have ever seen in a Red Sox uniform. Perhaps that's because he is. At the least, he's creeping up on the best that preceded him in Boston.
As it stands, Papelbon is in sixth place on the Sox' all-time saves list. With just four more saves he will overtake Derek Lowe and move into fifth place. That could happen in the space of a week or so. With seven more saves he will move past Jeff Reardon into fourth place. And with 10 more saves he will pass Ellis Kinder for third place. Expect all of that to happen sometime this summer.
But here's what is truly impressive; if Papelbon -- who has averaged 36 saves over the last two seasons -- holds true to form, he will surpass Dick Radatz and become #2 on the team's all time saves list by the end of this season, just his third in the Majors.
The present "King of the Hill" is Bob "The Steamer" Stanley, who amassed 132 career saves over 13 seasons with the club. Though Stanley has held the team record since retiring in 1989, at this point he is not long for that distinction. If history is a guide, Papebon will become the new Red Sox all-time saves leader before the conclusion of the 2009 season.
That would be a truly amazing feat, considering that it would only be Papelbon's fourth season in the role of closer.
Papelbon is at the top of his game and notes that he feels stronger than ever before. "I just feel that I know my body more and more and what I'm capable of," said the closer. "It's amazing what my program has been able to do for me. I stick to it. I'm really committed to it and it has helped me stay strong."
For opposing hitters, just making contact probably feels like an accomplishment. Papelbon has gone 14 appearances without walking a batter. In fact, the last time he walked an opposing hitter was on March 25, against Oakland, in Japan. In that same period, he has struck out 21 batters.
The young phenom is both respected and feared throughout the baseball, and every team would rather have him than have to face him. The Sox, and their fans, consider themselves lucky.
And with each additional save, Papelbon continues to stake his place in the Red Sox storied history.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.