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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Papelbon Ready for New Chapter, Intro Song

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Jonathan Papelbon will have a new intro song when he first takes the mound as Phillies closer at Citizens Bank Park.

“I’m Shipping up to Boston” by Dropkick Murphys is gone, replaced by …

Papelbon wouldn’t say. He hinted that it would be something of the heavy metal genre. But we’ll just have to wait and see until that bullpen door swings open in the ninth inning, possibly as early as the April 9 home opener.

“I think this year, more than any other year, I’ve been more excited to get into the clubhouse than any spring training,” Papelbon said Saturday, on the eve of the first workout for Phillies’ pitchers and catchers. 

“For me, 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, is one of the more exciting things I’ve been able to do.”

After seven seasons, 219 saves and a World Series championship with the Red Sox, Papelbon, 31, signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Phillies in November. The Red Sox, who have missed the postseason two years in a row, are in transition with a new manager (Bobby Valentine takes over for Terry Francona) and a new closer (Andrew Bailey takes over for Papelbon). Papelbon said he felt it was time for a change, though he wouldn’t expound. The Phillies were the only team other than the Red Sox that he talked to in the off-season. They gave him the largest contract ever for a reliever and the chance to continue pitching for a contender in a pressurized environment.

He craves that.

“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.

“It was definitely big for me to go to a spot where I felt like I could thrive. These are the type of situations I like to pitch in and thrive in.

“The biggest thing I recognized on the field is for the past three or four years playing against the Phillies and watching them – you see, and as a baseball player you know those teams that are close-knit, go to war together, grind together – you recognize those things when you play against teams and you see that. I had a good feeling of what it would be like, and there’s just a lot of guys that love to work here.”

From Curt Schilling to Jon Lester, Papelbon closed for some outstanding pitchers in Boston. It will be more of the same in Philadelphia, where Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels finished second, third and fifth in National League Cy Young voting last season. Papelbon said there’s no extra pressure closing for a star. In fact, he said he usually doesn’t even know that day’s starter until the game begins because he’s so focused on his own job.

“Regardless if I’m pitching for five rookie starters or I’m closing games for five studs like I am here, I don’t think it makes any difference,” he said. “I’m going out there to try to preserve wins for my starters and getting my starters as many wins as I can get them.”

The more wins the Phillies get, they better chance they have getting back to the World Series for the first time since 2009.

Papelbon was asked if he fantasized about playing his old team in the World Series.

“I’m not looking that far ahead right now,” he said. “It’s hard not to look ahead. 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 ball club and do the best I can one day at a time. If I can go just one day at a time right now -- I know it sounds cliché, but I know that’s what I have to do to stay focused on doing my job every day.”

Papelbon paused.

“But I do know when we play the Red Sox,” he said with the hint of a smirk.

Boston visits Philadelphia May 18-20.

By then, Papelbon should be fully ingrained in the Phillies clubhouse.

And we’ll know what his intro song is.

E-mail Jim Salisbury at

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