Papelbon ready to pen new chapter with Phils
His Boston days behind him, closer adjusting to new digs
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jonathan Papelbon made no references to his alter-ego "Cinco Ocho" on Saturday at Bright House Field.
It's a little early for that.
But he still spoke to reporters for more than 20 minutes following his morning workout at the Carpenter Complex. Papelbon, who signed a four-year, $50 million contract in November to be the Phillies' new closer, talked about his past in Boston, his present in Philadelphia and his future, like a potential Phillies-Red Sox World Series in October.
"It's hard not to look ahead," he said. "It's a human characteristic that comes into play, but for me, I'm just looking to find my way in this clubhouse and this ballclub and do the best I can do one day at a time."
"But I do know when we play the Red Sox."
Papelbon faces his former teammates May 18-20 at Citizens Bank Park. A handful of Red Sox reporters made the drive from Ft. Myers to Clearwater to speak with Papelbon, who closed for the Red Sox from 2006-11. But Papelbon certainly sounded eager to begin a new chapter in his baseball career in Philadelphia.
"Getting into a new clubhouse, meeting new guys, new teammates, putting my years in Boston behind me and starting a new chapter in my career are [some] of the more exciting things I've been able to do to this point," he said. "I think this year more than any other year, I've been more excited to get into the clubhouse than any Spring Training.
"From what I can gather so far, it's very similar. It's very similar in that you look around the clubhouse and it seems like every other locker, there's a superstar in it. I'm not going to really try to compare from one clubhouse to another. I'm going to come to this clubhouse and try to do my job and jump on board and follow everybody else and learn the ways of Philadelphia Phillies baseball."
Of course, no Red Sox means no Yankees.
No more Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
"Those are series where you elevate your game and you see how good you can be against great teams and great division rivals," Papelbon said. "But there's great ones in this division with the Braves and the Mets, and I'm excited to start experiencing those.
"To be honest, there really were some days when it got kind of old, sitting there saying, 'OK, I got to face Jeter again and he's seen everything I got and I've seen everything he's got.' That's why I say this brings a little bit of life to me this year by being in a new clubhouse and being able to face new guys. Playing the game of baseball the National League way ... I think you're playing baseball. I think it's a little more of a strategy game than it was in the American League. I don't know yet, but I'm assuming that it will be and I'm excited to do that."
There will be pressure in Philadelphia, just like Boston. The Phillies won a franchise record 102 regular-season games last season, but could not get past the Cardinals in the NL Division Series. The window of opportunity to win another World Series with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and everyday players like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins still close to their primes shrinks with every passing season.
They need to win now.
"I like pressure," Papelbon said. "That's what makes me tick, man. I'm excited. Pitching in this environment is an environment that I enjoy. Big league baseball players expect a lot out of themselves, and I don't think they're going to expect anything more than any town or city will."
Papelbon ended the 2011 season on a low note, giving up the game-winning hit to Orioles second baseman Robert Andino on the final day of the season to knock Boston from the postseason.
Asked if he still thought about that pitch, he said, "Every day. All day."
He paused again.
"I mean, I don't think about it at all, man," he said. "It's something that, when I was a rookie and I made my first All-Star Game, I had to talk with Mo [Yankees closer Marian Rivera] about the biggest thing that's going to make me successful in this game. His first answer was [have] a short term memory. You've got to be able to learn from [blown saves] still and learn from those situations. But I don't sit there and think about it all spring. You go over things and try to learn from them, but you've got to be able to turn the page."
He officially turns the page Sunday, when Phillies pitchers and catchers hold their first workout.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.