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Papelbon saved his best for after the game

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / May 19, 2012
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PHILADELPHIA - He had hoped to face some of his old pals like David Ortiz, but after Ortiz pinch hit in the eighth inning Friday night, that matchup was eliminated.

Not that Jonathan Papelbon suffered any degree of discontent in his debut against his old team, the Red Sox, following a 6-4 Phillies win in which he earned his 12th save in as many chances.

“I was kind of keeping track of that a little, but when it comes down to getting ready to come in the ballgame I was locked in and all the stuff is thrown out the window,’’ Papelbon said. “It was just another ballgame. Cole [Hamels] pitched great and for me as a closer, I want to go out there and preserve all the wins I can for my starters. I take pride in that. That’s what it boiled down to for me.’’

Earlier in the day, Papelbon referred to Ortiz as “Big Sloppy.’’

“If he gets me, I won’t ever be able to say nothing to him. If I get him, I’ll always be able to say something to him. That’s just the way it is,’’ the pitcher said.

With Ortiz having lost 30 pounds, does Papelbon still think he’s Big Sloppy?

“Oh, he’s not Big Sloppy anymore? He looks good, real good,’’ Papelbon said.

He didn’t have much of a history with any of the scheduled Sox batters in the ninth.

Kelly Shoppach hit a hard ball to third base that Mike Fontenot couldn’t handle. After Daniel Nava grounded out, advancing Shoppach to second base, Marlon Byrd grounded out, but the throw from shortstop Jimmy Rollins may have pulled first baseman Ty Wigginton off the bag.

Sox manager Bobby Valentine had a long argument with first base umpire Gary Darling, largely in an attempt to distract Papelbon. But Cinco Ocho was having none of it.

“No man, Valentine can’t distract Cinco, man,’’ Papelbon said. “Cinco has ice water in his veins.’’

Papelbon thought there was “an extra buzz’’ in the ballpark, but otherwise he said everything felt the same. He said he’d be available to pitch Saturday.

The fact he’s being used a lot lately speaks of the Phillies’ six-game winning streak.

“If I’m in the game it means we’re playing well,’’ Papelbon said. “We’re on a good streak. We’ve got to keep this train rolling and can’t look forward and can’t look back. We have the capability of putting 10 wins on the board real quick.’’

Papelbon credited a recent team meeting by manager Charlie Manuel as a catalyst for the winning streak.

Manuel’s message?

“Everybody just has to go out there and do their job and do the little things right. Little things win ballgames,’’ Papelbon said.

Before the game, Papelbon said he was interested in bragging rights against his old teammates, sort of like a backyard baseball game with his brothers. But he didn’t talk smack afterward, feeling “we need to win the series before I do anything like that.’’

“I grew up with these guys in the big leagues. I have more respect for those guys. They are like family to me,’’ he said.

Papelbon did acknowledge before the game, “I think I’ve been looking forward to this series from the day I signed here.’’

Why?

“I think facing old teammates, and having bragging rights. You want to have the bragging rights. I don’t want to have to hear it from [Dustin] Pedroia, I want to be giving it to him. It’ll be fun,’’ Papelbon said.

“I don’t need extra motivation, you should know that by now. Cinco always has the advantage. Whatever he does. He doesn’t know how he do, he just do. Never underestimate Cinco Ocho. It’s 10-1 odds, don’t ever bet against him.’’

Speaking about his years in Boston, Papelbon said, “I’m proud of the championships we won there and being part of an organization I felt like taught me how to play in the big leagues. I’m proud of playing for a manager like Tito [Francona], who taught me how to be a man and accept winning from A to Z. I could talk all day about it. For me, it’s a lot of memories and a lot of good people that surrounded me.’’

Does he know why the Red Sox didn’t offer a contract?

“I don’t know that answer,’’ he said.

As far as the biggest difference between the American League and National League? “The way the game is played,’’ Papelbon said. “I’m home in 2 1/2 hours. In Boston I’m pitching at midnight. I can’t tell you how many times I was at Fenway and saw 12:02 or 12:03 [on the clock]. These guys asked me, how’d you pitch last night, and I said I didn’t pitch last night, I pitched today.’’

Of course, he didn’t help that with his slow delivery.

“I’ve had a few fines in my day,’’ he said.

Friday night’s game lasted 2:50.

He was asked whether he thought Daniel Bard, who lasted only five innings and gave up five runs, would be his successor.

“Yeah, for sure. I did think that,’’ Papelbon said. “But like I said this offseason about Bard, the guy can do anything he wants and he’s proven that.

“He’s taken off now. He’s got a good future ahead of him as a starter.’’

But Friday night belonged to Papelbon.

The bragging rights were completely in his corner.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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