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Red Sox notebook

A tie that binds Papelbon and Stanley

They now share team save mark

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / June 30, 2009
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BALTIMORE - Before the ball landed in Jason Bay’s glove, a sliding snow cone grab, Jonathan Papelbon had already considered it a hit for Matt Wieters.

“I was pretty much thinking, ‘What’s my first pitch going to be to Luke Scott?’ ’’ Papelbon said of the batter in the on-deck circle. “Pretty exciting.’’

Bay finished off last night’s 4-0 win over the Orioles, giving Papelbon his 132d career save for the Red Sox on just three pitches. That tied Bob Stanley for the franchise’s all-time record, with Papelbon reaching the milestone in just four years. And he did it in a four-run game, entering with men on first and second and two down.

“It’s an exciting feeling, but at the same time I just want to keep doing what I’ve been trying to do,’’ Papelbon said. “Try to just really stay consistent with my delivery, with my work, with what I’m trying to do.’’

“He’s been so good from about the minute he got here,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “He settled into this role, and he’s been about as good as anybody in the game.’’

He tied the record in his first shot after getting his 131st save Saturday. But that’s a far cry from the most celebrated save this week. Papelbon was walking by Dustin Pedroia’s room Sunday night when he noticed the second baseman was watching the Yankees-Mets game. The Sox closer hurried to catch the end of the game, in which he was able to witness Yankee closer Mariano Rivera record his 500th save, a feat Papelbon would like to duplicate.

“I definitely try to think of myself being able and capable if I do stay healthy to do that,’’ Papelbon said of reaching 500 saves.

Rivera, said Papelbon, “has set the standard real high. Like I’ve always called him, he’s the godfather of our role, and he’s done so much for it. He set the standard high, that’s for sure. To chase him is definitely an honor . . . definitely a challenge, and I’m always up for challenges.

“He’s been able to do it with consistency year in and year out, man, and that’s what’s really impressive, especially in the American League East.’’

Although Papelbon is 19 for 20 in save chances this season, he’s had some struggles. His WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) was 1.364 entering last night, and he’s already given up four home runs, matching his total from last season and one shy of his career high in 2007. But he’s still on pace to finish with at least 35 saves for the fourth straight year.

Papelbon has yet to contact Rivera, but said, “Hopefully we’ll both be in St. Louis [for the All-Star Game], which will be really nice, and I’ll be able to give him personal congratulations and tell him I’m coming after him still, even though he’s putting these things out of reach for everybody else.’’

Hip check
Mike Lowell not only got an injection in his ailing right hip yesterday morning in Boston, he also had fluid drained. Lowell is scheduled to meet with rehabilitation coordinator Scott Waugh today and will rejoin the team when it returns home Thursday.

“We’ve had pretty extensive conversations,’’ Francona said. “Worst-case scenario he goes on the DL just to buy us a couple weeks where he can kind of get a second wind for the second part of the season. We could wait a few days and then just let him play if that’s OK, too. So we’re just kind of in a waiting mode, and we’ll see.’’

Lowell has started just twice in the last nine games because of tightness in his surgically repaired hip.

Two-step
Francona made a change at the top of the lineup, and it paid immediate dividends. Francona flipped Pedroia and J.D. Drew, and Drew led off the game with a triple. Pedroia then singled him home. Drew hit a two-run homer in his next at-bat.

Pedroia is hitting .214 this season in the leadoff spot, with a .264 on-base percentage. Since May 31, when Pedroia replaced Jacoby Ellsbury atop the lineup, he has seen an average of 3.94 pitches per plate appearance. In the previous 48 games, batting second, he saw 3.78 pitches per plate appearance.

A change in approach was the problem.

“It’s almost like he’s too conscientious,’’ Francona said. “He sees himself hitting and he wants so bad to do the right thing and he was getting himself in the hole in the count. I just thought, you know what, move him back to second. He wasn’t complaining.

“I said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me if it’s bothering you?’ He goes, ‘We’re winning.’ That’s Pedey. That’s why we love him. He cares more about winning than himself. I believe that. I just think he’s trying too hard to do the right thing.’’

Said Pedroia: “I think of more situations when I’m at the plate [batting second], instead of just trying to do too much. That’s what I’ve been doing. I want to do so well and get a hit every time up, and sometimes that backfires, especially when you have a lot of energy and stuff like that. I think it did take a little bit of my aggressiveness away.’’

Francona said there was no consideration given to returning Ellsbury to the leadoff spot at this point.

Lowrie held out
Jed Lowrie was out of the starting lineup for Pawtucket last night after leaving Sunday’s game early. The rehabbing shortstop has a significant bruise on the back of his knee. He was hit by a pitch earlier in the week. “I think fatigued is the right word,’’ Francona said. “When you get swelling, that happens. I don’t think this is anything that we’re tremendously worried about. The one thing it does is it gets in the way of him progressing with his wrist. But we just have to keep patient.’’

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