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The Boston Red Sox certainly dropped a bombshell on the general public once again as they announced that Jonathon Papelbon will be returning to anchor the bullpen manning the closing roll once again this year. You may be asking yourself, What happened to his weak shoulder? Many Boston Red Sox fans holding their tickets waiting to get in the park through gate C will be asking the same question. With a payroll that is inching closer to 200 million dollars year by year and with the highest ticket prices in Major League Baseball, were the Boston Red Sox really going to go into opening day without a closer that had proven themselves worthy in a previous season?
The off-season was filled with plenty of assurance from the front office that Papelbon was going to be taking his turn in the starting rotation when we saw him come April. General Manager Theo Epstein, Manager Terry Francona and others fended off questions about if the Red Sox would put Papelbon back in the pen. It wasnt even just the front office filling our heads with the usual company line. Jonathon himself answered questions in a radio interview stating that not only was he going to be in the starting rotation come the spring, and went as far as on February 3rd of this year stating my entire makeup is to be a starting pitcher.
So what if Papelbon was going to be a starter, the Red Sox having a 180 Million dollar payroll must have spent big money to bring in a reputable player to fill the roll, right? Not so, did Boston Red Sox fans awaiting their Sox Ticket Pax to arrive in the mail really believe that Joel Piniero was the answer? Did the Red Sox even believe that Joel Piniero was the answer in their own mind? Does Piniero himself even believe that he was going to be the closer? With the other Major League Baseball teams believing that the Red Sox were in dire straights to find a closer, the price on pitchers like Chad Cordero from the Washington Nationals went through the roof.
The story goes that Papelbon went to team captain Jason Varitek and told Varitek his desire to be the closer once again this year. After meeting with Terry Francona, Paplebon was put back in the closers roll. At what point did things change between Paplebons comments that he himself was built to be a starter and the time he went into Fanconas office to ask to be put back in the bullpen. Apparently the off-season shoulder strengthening program that the pitcher was put on showed some encouraging results. These results obviously did not come onto Franconas desk at the same exact time Papelbon asked to be put back in the bullpen. So if the Sox knew that Papelbons shoulder was in good enough condition to start this year at the closers roll, why didnt they place him back in that roll when they saw the condition his shoulder was in?
Much like anything that goes on behind the brick walls on Yawkey Way, the real story usually comes out eventually. The fans are sure to find out more down the line. As of right now however, three people should be very happy, Jonathon Papelbon, the Red Sox fan and Joel Piniero.
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