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Dan Shaughnessy

Case closed

Papelbon doesn’t give blown saves a thought

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / June 26, 2010

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SAN FRANCISCO — Don’t worry about Jonathan Papelbon. He’s not going to lose any sleep over a couple of blown saves.

“Man, I woke up this morning and didn’t even know I was in San Fran,’’ the big galoot said as he dressed in front of his locker at AT&T Park last night. “My mind was numb to everything. Never mind what happened [Thursday] night.’’

This is the guy you want closing out big games in the big leagues. A guy with a numb skull. A goofball who’s not going to start worrying about every little thing. In “Bull Durham’’ Crash Davis tells Nuke LaLoosh, “don’t think. You’re hurting the team.’’

Papelbon has some Nuke in him. He knows that thinking is only going to make things worse. We won’t have to hide the sharp objects if somebody hits one into McCovey Cove off Papelbon today or tomorrow. Physically and mentally, Cinco Ocho is uniquely qualified for his job.

“It’s all about being able to turn the page,’’ he said. “I learned that from Mariano Rivera at my first All-Star Game in Pittsburgh [2006]. He told me that if I was going to be great, I had to learn to do that. And that’s the first thing I took into consideration. That’s why starters are starters, and setup men are setup men, and closers are closers. You can’t breed a closer. Closers are born. And I’m a born closer. This is what I was born to do.’’

Colorado was the last thing on his mind last night.

He had a rough couple of nights at Coors Field. Wednesday he was summoned to protect a one-run lead in the ninth and surrendered a pair of homers to lose the game. Thursday he came in to protect an 11-9 lead, but allowed two runs on three hits in the ninth, sending the game into extra innings. He smothered the Rockies in the 10th, after the Sox went ahead again, earning a cheesy win. It was the first time in his career that he blew saves on consecutive days and his ERA is an unusually inflated 3.98.

“In the Wednesday game I just got beat,’’ he acknowledged. “I was getting underneath the ball a little bit. Thursday was more of a fluke. I was flying open a little. There was a bloop hit. A little flare over the third baseman. But I got a chance to go back out there and that’s good for me. I never get to do that.’’

Sox manager Terry Francona isn’t worried about his closer.

“This isn’t going to eat him alive,’’ said Tito. “He’ll be mad, but I guarantee you he’ll want the ball. The good ones all do and that’s why he is who he is.’’

Papelbon spoke of “going back to the drawing board,’’ but there’s nothing drastic afoot.

“I don’t put a lot of stock in things he says,’’ chuckled the manager. “He was going sideways a little bit and that makes everything flatten out. Hey, everybody fights something.’’

“I’m just a little off in my delivery,’’ said Papelbon. “I’ve just been getting out of my delivery a little bit.’’

Pitching coach John Farrell said major adjustments aren’t needed.

“It’s a subtle thing because when you look at the outings leading to the two outings in Colorado, he’s been dominant,’’ Farrell said. “So to say that the results of two outings are going to cause a drawing board to remake things, that isn’t needed and there’s no physical issues. Part of it is just from a confidence standpoint, too. He was on a good run, and yet he ran into two nights in a row that didn’t go his way.

In 110 years in which they’ve both been in existence, the Red Sox and Giants have played one another only 14 times. The Sox swept three from the Giants at Fenway in 2007, and won one of three here in 2004. The Sox went on to win the World Series in both years. The only other time they met was in 1912 when the Sox beat the Giants, 4-3-1 in a World Series which featured five games at Fenway Park. Game 2 at Fenway was a 6-6 tie, called on account of darkness.

The Red Sox never played at Candlestick Park, but Francona remembered playing there as a member of the Montreal Expos.

“It was a terrible place to play baseball,’’ said the manager. “You’d sit there for nine innings with the wind blowing in your face and hot dog wrappers blowing around and dust in your eyes and then the manager would ask you to go up there and hit. It was awful. It was a great place to watch a football game, but it wasn’t good for baseball.’’

The Giants today will honor their past as Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, and Orlando Cepeda participate in a pregame ceremony to retire the number of Hall of Famer Monte Irvin.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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