YOUNG CLOSER MOVING IN ON CLUB'S ALL TIME SAVES MARK
In just his third season as the Red Sox closer, Jonathan Papelbon is already poised to make Sox history. With his 28th save in 32 chances on Sunday, Papelbon became just the third Red Sox reliever to record 100 career saves. And in the coming weeks, Papelbon will move into second place on the team's all-time saves list.
Papelbon got his 100th save in his 176th career appearance. The only American League pitcher with more saves in his first 176 outings is Kazuhiro Sasaki, who had 111 with Seattle in that period. Sasaki got his 100th save in his 160th game.
"One hundred down, I guess three or four hundred more to go," said the Louisiana native after the game.
Possessing a fastball that has been clocked at 99 miles per hour, plus a nasty split and changeup, Papelbon is arguably the game's premier closer right now. Surely, he is the best closer most Sox fans have ever seen in Boston. Perhaps that's because he is. The affable hurler began the season in seventh place on the club's all-time saves list. But during the season's first half, Papelbon has leap-frogged past Derek Lowe, Jeff Reardon and Ellis Kinder, in succession.
But here's what's truly impressive; Papelbon will soon surpass Dick Radatz (104) and become #2 on the team's all time saves list -- in just his third year in the Majors. And it's worth noting that he missed the final month of the 2006 campaign, despite this impressive achievement.
Though he's averaged 36 saves over the last two seasons, Papelbon is currently on pace for 45-50 this year. It's a pace unmatched in team history. In fact, Papelbon is the first Boston pitcher to ever have two 30-save seasons, and he did it in back-to-back years. What's more, he's almost reached 30 already this season, and it's only the All Star break.
The club's all-time saves leader is Bob "The Steamer" Stanley, who amassed 132 career saves over 13 seasons with the Sox. 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 an incredible feat, considering that it would only be his fourth season in the role of closer.
Papelbon is at the top of his game and says that he feels stronger than ever before. And he got the confidence to match. It can be seen each time he takes the mound. A fierce competitor with a bulldog mentality, the young righty is absolutely dominating and inspires fear in the hearts of opposing batters. For most, just making contact probably feels like an accomplishment. Papelbon went the entire month of April without walking a batter, and has granted just seven free passes all season. That coincides with 51 strike outs in just 40 2/3 innings.
Only three Red Sox closers have notched at least 40 saves in a season; Reardon, Ugueth Urbina, Lowe, and Tom Gordon, who had a club-record 46 saves in 1998. Papelbon is currently on pace to break that record by season's end.
The young phenom is both respected and feared throughout the baseball, and every team would rather have him than have to face him. The organization did a great job grooming him, and have the good fortunate of having the three-time All Star under their control for the next few years.
The numbers just keep piling up, 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.