Papelbon outsmarted the Red Sox. Or something like that

ANAHEIM, Calif. — With the late start Sunday newspaper deadlines being what they are, writing a story or two before the game is a necessity. The topic of one piece in the Globe tomorrow will be Jonathan Papelbon.

Papelbon has converted all five of his save chances this season. In eight appearances overall, he has allowed two earned runs over 8.1 innings on seven hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts. He threw 11 of his 12 pitches for strikes last night, playing in his third game in as many nights. He had not done that since 2007.

A year after he had a career-worst 3.90 earned run average and blew eight saves, Papelbon has returned to being one of the best closers in baseball.

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Papelbon had a rocky spring training, posting a 12.60 ERA in six major league games and pitching erratically in several minor league games. Terry Francona said the Red Sox were concerned and encouraged Papelbon to turn up his intensity to prepare for the season.

“We’d jab at him every once in a while and say, ‘Hey, let’s go. We’re starting in two weeks.’ He’d say, ‘I’ll be fine.’ I hate to say this, but he might be smarter than us. That really hurts,” Francona said.

Check out tomorrow for more on the closer.

As for other stuff:

• Kevin Youkilis is fine and back in there.

• Carl Crawford is hitting 8th for the first time since 2003. Francona said he’s just trying to balance the lineup as best he can. That’s 17 lineups in 20 games.

I’ll be on NESN around 8:22 or so, so check that out. Heidi Watney is back from a two-day break, too.