When the Philadelphia Phillies signed closer Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million contract in 2011, they were expecting a lot out of the former Boston Red Sox All-Star.
Philadelphia’s high expectations apparently have not diminished.
After recording back-to-back saves against the New York Mets on Friday and Saturday, Papelbon told Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg that he was unavailable for the Sunday’s series finale because of back soreness.
Papelbon might have gotten away with taking the day off, but his team blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning and ended up losing 5-4 in extra innings.
Papelbon declared himself good to go Tuesday after an off day Monday, but Sandberg still was not pleased, calling out the 33-year-old for his decision to sit.
“Well, we need a closer that can go three games in a row and close three games,” Sandberg said, via The Philadelphia Inquirer. “No question about that.”
When asked if Papelbon could pitch three days in a row without rest, Sandberg added: “I sure hope so. That’s his job.”
For his part, the Phillies closer defended his decision to make himself unavailable, citing the turf at the Toronto Blue Jays’ Rogers Centre as the cause for his soreness.
“I wasn’t comfortable with throwing,” Papelbon said. “I felt like it could create more injury. Instead of missing 30 or 40 or 50 games, I decided it would be best for my team and my career to maybe sit one out.”
It might be wise for Sandberg and the Phillies to make sure their closer stays on the field. After giving up three runs in his first save attempt of the season, Papelbon has converted 11 consecutive save opportunities without allowing a run and ranks fifth in the majors in saves as of Wednesday.