Jonathan Papelbon’s Spring Struggles Not a Concern Since Closer Thrives on High-Pressure Situations

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Jonathan Papelbon's Spring Struggles Not a Concern Since Closer Thrives on High-Pressure Situations The real games begin next weekend for the Red Sox. Though we know the rotation, some questions still remain about the batting order and the bullpen.

One guy who may have flown under the radar thus far is Dan Wheeler, and I’ll explain why shortly. But one guy who never flies under the radar is Jonathan Papelbon, who has a 12.60 ERA in his six spring appearances. With that, let’s get into the questions.

Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this spring. Are you worried?
–Deena, Martinsville, Va.

I am not worried. I think he is the one guy that does not worry me if he does not have a particularly good spring. The reason is that he is the one guy who needs the situation to raise his adrenaline in a clutch ninth-inning closing situation. You just cannot replicate that emotion and adrenaline in the middle innings of a meaningless spring training game.

If you bring him in late in a game trying to give it that feel, he then is most likely facing Single-A players. So in the spring, he can never get that proper frame of mind that drives him and is so important for what it is that he does. Spring training does not mean much for him, good or bad. 

Will David Ortiz have another tough start?
–Roger, Clinton, Mass.

I am hopeful that he will not — for his own sake. The last two years have been so hard on him and they seem to snowball. He always seems to get to where he needs to be by the end of the year with about 30 homers and 100 RBIs. However, he has to rake in June and July to get back there.

For his psyche, I am hopeful he starts well and just stays consistent. All is well when David is well and his confidence is strong. His smile and confidence is infectious when he’s got it going on. When he is down and struggling, it is hard on him and everyone else.

This is now a contract year, so I hope he does not feel any added pressure and can just relax and perform like he knows he can. I think he has better protection around him this year, and that may help as well.

Any surprises in the starting rotation order?
–Kelly, Nashua, N.H.

There’s none with the opening day starter. I sort of figured Jon Lester would get the nod there. Maybe in the No. 2 selection, I did not see John Lackey going there, but I understand the reasons and don’t think it is a bad option. I just did not expect Josh Beckett to drop to fourth. Really, at the end of the day, these starters by number do not mean much. The bottom line is every day, with this starting group, you have a better than average chance of a victory. The order of the rotation does not much matter. The questions remain the same: Can John Lackey become more consistent and can Josh Beckett return to being Josh Beckett?

The Red Sox made so many moves this offseason what is one that is underrated?
–Kim, Utica, N.Y.

I think the addition of veteran reliever Dan Wheeler. In an offseason where people were signing relievers for big money and multiple years and subsequently sending the market into a frenzy for their services, the Red Sox did incredibly well without breaking the bank or handing out more years than they wanted to. Wheeler has done it all in the pen and, even better, knows the American League East well, having lived it for so many years in Tampa. He has pitched in the postseason and World Series. He is going to be crucial in the sixth or seventh innings, which is where the Red Sox lost so many games last year.

What are you hoping for from Spring Training to go well for the Red Sox?
–J.R., Santa Cruz, Calif.

Health is the main issue. Get out of spring training with no injuries and for every member in the rotation ready to make their first regular-season start. After everything that happened from a health standpoint last year, it would be so nice to start the year and continue all year long with a full contingent of players you planned to have help the club. I am sure Terry Francona feels the same. Get out of here healthy, that’s No. 1.

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