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Red Sox Notebook

Papelbon is still closing in

Off just ‘a tick,’ he gets roughed up

New left fielder Carl Crawford was in good form against the Mets yesterday, stroking a two-run single in the third inning. New left fielder Carl Crawford was in good form against the Mets yesterday, stroking a two-run single in the third inning. (Associated Press)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / March 18, 2011

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox led the Mets, 8-1, yesterday in the top of the ninth inning. Jonathan Papelbon had two outs and a runner on first base.

The green-clad fans were walking (some unsteadily) for the exits at City of Palms Park, a successful celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in their wake.

Then came a walk. Then another walk, followed by a three-run double. Then another double and suddenly Papelbon had been pulled from a game for the second time in a week.

The four-run outburst left Papelbon with an unseemly 12.60 earned run average in six games this spring, all of the damage coming in two games.

It’s only spring training. But after a rocky 2010 season, every misstep by Papelbon gets magnified. Does the closer have any concerns?

“Not one bit,’’ Papelbon said, looking up from his iPad. “I’m basically trying to find my delivery and iron out the kinks before the season rolls around, basically.’’

Papelbon arrived at camp saying his mechanics were “locked in.’’ But after three perfect outings, he has run into problems.

“No, I don’t feel like I’ve fallen out of it,’’ he said. “I feel like . . . I still feel very locked in. For me right now, it’s just a tick off from my mechanics.

“I’m not searching. I know exactly what’s going on. I can feel it in my delivery. For me, it’s not a big deal at all. It’s just a minor little detail for me.’’

Papelbon has put 10 runners on base in five innings this spring. His next outing, likely Sunday, will be a two-inning stint in a minor league game.

“I think that will be good for him,’’ said manager Terry Francona.

Five more cuts The Red Sox optioned first baseman Lars Anderson, catcher Luis Exposito, shortstop Jose Iglesias, and infielder Yamaico Navarro to Pawtucket. Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares was reassigned to minor league camp.

Iglesias hit .320 in 15 games. The 21-year-old has made great strides in his brief time with the organization.

“His command of the English language is way better, which I think makes it easier for him not only on the field but off the field,’’ Francona said. “I don’t think we saw the type of hitter we’re going to see.

“He’s trying to show so much, make an impact when he gets in in the sixth inning and he wants to do too much.

“When he settles down and gets into a season, we’ll find out what kind of hitter he can be. You can see the defense is there but I think the offense will continue to grow as he gets more rounded and gets some at-bats.’’

Linares also played himself into prominence, going 8 of 25 in 13 games with three extra-base hits. The stocky 26-year-old from Cuba could get a chance this season if the opportunity arises.

“Linares is really interesting,’’ Francona said. “Obviously the major league staff didn’t know him very well. At first blush you look at him and you think, ‘I don’t know if this guy can play center field.’ Then you see him run around out there.

“He can actually play all three outfield positions. He’s very aggressive at the plate and he hustles on every ball in play.’’

With his girlfriend about to give birth, Exposito was in Miami when the news came over the telephone.

“I wasn’t totally comfortable with it,’’ said Francona. “But I was less comfortable with him driving back just so we could send him down. So he’s been informed, and we’ll visit with him when he comes back.’’

Green parties The Red Sox wore green caps and jerseys in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. But the most creative celebrant was Mike Cameron, who put Al Green on the clubhouse stereo before the game. “I’m Black Irish,’’ said Cameron . . . Bobby Jenks will throw two innings in a minor league game today, with Hideki Okajima throwing one inning tomorrow . . . Jason Varitek joined the team’s Japanese players at the City of Palms gates before the game to collect donations for earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan . . . Carl Crawford was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and a stolen base. Jacoby Ellsbury scored from first base on a single, taking third on the hit, then alertly coming home when the throw to the plate bounced away.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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