Thursday, March 31, 2011

How long of a leash should Jonathan Papelbon be on?

The Red Sox are expected to have among the deepest bullpens in the game this season. The Yankees may have a better 1-2 punch in Soriano and Rivera, but the Yankees aren't as deep in the bullpen. However, the Red Sox have a pretty big question mark in closer Jonathan Papelbon. The depth that the Red Sox have acquired may end up being the undoing of Papelbon.
Last season, Papelbon had some major struggles, blowing a career high eight saves and a career high 3.90 ERA. Because of this, one has to wonder how long of a leash will Papelbon get before he's yanked from the role. In my opinion, Paps should be given a couple of months. I believe that Papelbon is still slightly underrated because of the nature of Boston sports talk and that he can still return to what he was, especially in a contract year. 

In 2006, the team was facing a similar situation when former World Series hero Keith Foulke was struggling coming into the year. The team gave him all of two games until they realized he had to be pulled from the spot. However, Foulke was an older pitcher who was experiencing a steeper decline. With that being said, if Papelbon is struggling heading into June, the Red Sox need to make a move. They can not allow their playoff chances to be blown because they were stubborn with their closer. 

If and when Papelbon does get taken out of his role as the team's closer, I believe he should be replaced by Bobby Jenks. I know a lot of people are excited to see Daniel Bard in the closer role, but the team should hold off on that one more year. Jenks has closing experience, and at a high level too. In Chicago, he was once regarded as one of the better closers in the game. I believe Bard should just be left alone in the 8th inning role so he can stay comfortable in that role all year. The more comfortable a guy is, especially a young guy, the better he will perform. 

Let's hope none of this comes into play, though, and Papelbon gives us one last good season.

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