If Jonathan Papelbon struggles as the Philadelphia Phillies’ closer in 2013 the Phillies won’t have to get very creative to replace him. The only reason I’m discussing this is because Papelbon got blasted for six runs yesterday against the Detroit Tigers in a spring training game.
I know, I know, spring training is meaningless; especially the first game of spring training that featured a closer pitching in the 5th inning. Spring training in baseball is only slightly more watchable than preseason NFL only because it’s the only sport I watch that is on (no hockey or basketball). Preseason baseball is better because it represents a memory of summer in the otherwise cold, and bleak month of February.
Now that I’ve gotten through how little spring training performances mean to seasoned veterans like Papelbon, back to my original question. What happens if Jonathan Papelbon struggles in 2013?
First off, if Papelbon struggles his removal won’t be immediate. Phillies fans saw this phenomenon with Brad Lidge in 2009. Lidge suffered through, if I remember correctly, the worst season EVER for a closer. Lidge went 0-8 with 11 blown saves, a 7.21 ERA, but yet, he managed to record 31 saves in 67 games. He faced only nine fewer batters in 2009 than he did in 2008 when he was perfect and led the Phillies to a championship. The worst part to fans was how everyone seemed to know what was going to happen when Lidge came in except Charlie Manuel.
The moral of that story was to show how loyal Charlie Manuel is to his players. He’ll stick with his guys through thick and thin, even while he loses face doing so. Papelbon will have plenty of leash to work with, but I don’t see Charlie Manuel letting anyone in his bullpen run up a 7.21 ERA and keep their job. After all, Charlie is in a contract year.
If Paps struggles the obvious next choice is newly acquired set up man Mike Adams. If not Adams (for whatever reason) Antonio Bastardo comes next, probably followed by Michael Stutes. A guy to watch out for if a doomsday closer scenario should present itself is rookie Phillipe Aumont, who could land the job if he makes the squad this spring. He’s been called the closer of the future. Hopefully the future doesn’t come until Papelbon has a few more championships.