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Red Sox notebook

Papelbon isn’t shying away

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / June 26, 2009
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WASHINGTON - With little more than a week remaining before baseball unveils its All-Stars, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon is a good bet to make the American League team for the fourth time in his four-year career. And if Rays manager Joe Maddon selects him, he will participate.

“I’ll go every chance I get,’’ Papelbon said. “Why not?’’

Well, there was last year. Papelbon endured brutal treatment from New York fans after saying he would like to close the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium instead of Mariano Rivera - even after he made it clear he wanted Rivera to close.

The climate this time in St. Louis will surely be more hospitable, and Papelbon said last year’s experience would not deter him from going to All-Star Games. It also didn’t stop him from saying, again, that he wants to close out the game.

“Of course,’’ Papelbon said. “Who wouldn’t? I think anybody that is a relief pitcher that gets a chance to go to the All-Star Game would want to close one out. I’d kind of look at him a different way if he didn’t. Wouldn’t you?’’

Papelbon would be a worthy choice. In the American League, only Brian Fuentes and Bobby Jenks have more saves than Papelbon’s 17 (in 18 chances), and only Frank Francisco and Fernando Rodney have a better save percentage.

Papelbon has derived special satisfaction from his season. While changing his delivery in a way that uses his legs more and takes strain off his shoulder, Papelbon has compiled a 1.74 ERA and struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings.

Papelbon’s arm is “feeling better than any year I’ve had,’’ he said, because manager Terry Francona has “been able to get me rest this year more than in the past because our bullpen has been able to be so good.’’

Ortiz bats cleanup
Francona continued to rotate players in the lineup while the Sox play six games in National League parks, leaving Kevin Youkilis out and inserting David Ortiz at first base. Ortiz also batted fourth for the first time this season; when asked about hitting cleanup, Ortiz replied, “I am?’’ Ortiz (0 for 3) has six home runs in his last 45 at-bats. “I’m thrilled,’’ Francona said. “The other thing is the fact that he’s willing. How many guys have you seen who have done what David has, and he hits where you ask him to? I appreciate that. Makes it easy on us.’’ The increase in production coincided with Ortiz receiving an eye exam, then using eye drops. He had been blinking at the plate because of dry eyes. “Very different,’’ Ortiz said. “My eyes, they haven’t been drying up. I feel good. I never paid attention to it. It’s something you never had before, you know? I started using [the drops], and I feel better. I’m seeing the ball. I feel good.’’ . . . Mike Lowell started at third, having had four days off out of five. The Red Sox are planning to put Lowell on a maintenance program starting next week in which he’ll receive at least one day off a week and take occasional lubricating injections to ease the friction in the cartilage in his hip. The Red Sox will ease off on Lowell much like the Yankees have with Alex Rodriguez, who also had hip surgery, making sure he’s rested accordingly. The plan last night was to give Youkilis the night completely off and use Mark Kotsay as a late-inning defensive replacement for Ortiz. “Just trying to mix and match, keep everybody healthy,’’ Francona said. “Keep seeing how each day goes.’’

Splinter group
When the jagged end of Elijah Dukes’s broken bat nearly impaled shortstop Nick Green Wednesday night, the play resonated with Jason Bay. On April 15 last season, while he was with the Pirates, Bay leaned on the dugout railing while teammate Nate McLouth batted. McLouth cracked a ball down the line, but his maple bat shattered. The barrel flew into the dugout, and Bay dived out of the way. Hitting coach Don Long was standing next to Bay. He didn’t duck. Long followed the ball and never saw the bat, which gashed him below the right eye and left him bloodied. “They break off like a weapon,’’ Bay said. Bay had switched from maple to ash bats even before the incident. He used maple during the first few seasons of his career. When talk of banning maple bats arose, Bay ordered some ash bats so he would be assured of “good wood’’ in case manufacturers began mass producing ash bats. His wife suggested he stick with the ash for safety reasons. Bay, who saw little difference in the way the bats produced, obliged. Green was remarkably calm and he remained so yesterday. “It’s just something that happened,’’ Green said.

Lowrie lies low
Rehabbing shortstop Jed Lowrie did not take part in any baseball activities yesterday with Pawtucket. Lowrie was hit by a pitch in the left knee Tuesday night, which left the joint stiff. He could perform baseball activities today, but he likely will not play . . . Julio Lugo got into the game in the eighth. Playing short, the first batter hit a ball to Lugo’s right and it scooted under his backhand attempt. Lugo was charged with an error . . . In the sixth inning, Ortiz drove in J.D. Drew with his team-high fifth sacrifice fly. . . . In their last three series, the Nationals, with a 21-49 record, went 5-4 against the AL East. . . . The Nationals drew 125,032 fans for the series, in which they set a park record for attendance every game . . . The Sox optioned catcher Dusty Brown to Pawtucket.

Nick Cafardo of the Globe staff contributed; Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com

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