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For openers, what about the closer?

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  June 24, 2010 09:45 AM

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58244db09090b40ace0e6a706700b81b.jpgJason Giambi stuck that hanging splitter in the upper deck last night and 90 seconds later, the first e-mail arrived.

"How long are they going to wait before making Bard the closer?"

Jonathan Papelbon has blown exactly two regular-season saves since last July 30, so such panic is a little unwarranted. But those two were dramatic ones.

Papelbon gave up two home runs against the Yankees on May 17 and two more last night. He has allowed six homers this season, one more than his previous high for an entire season. Papelbon allowed 21 home runs in his first 284 appearances in the majors. He has allowed five in he last 13.

Papelbon also is averaging 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings, the lowest rate in his career since he averaged 9.0 as rookie in 2005. His four losses this year match the most he has ever had over an entire season.

(Mix in the playoff meltdown against the Angels and all these trends dip even more.)

All bad signs. Come the winter, Theo Epstein probably will give serious consideration to the idea of trading him.

But now is not the time to make a switch or make a trade. Daniel Bard hasn't even thrown 90 innings in the majors yet. He has a 5.59 ERA in 12 appearances against the Yankees, is prone to homers himself (9 over 87.1 innings) and when called up to be the closer in Cleveland earlier this month, had all sorts of issues.

Papelbon has earned the right to try and get himself straight at least through this season and Bard deserves the right to further develop himself as a pitcher before being tossed in the fire. Beyond that, if Bard becomes the man for the 9th inning, who is throwing the 8th inning? Nobody on this staff as presently constituted.

Bard looks every bit the kind of pitcher who can be a great closer ... but in 2011. For now, don't let one bad inning get you too riled up.

What do you think? Is Papelbon still the man you want closing?

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