Jonathan Papelbon

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Jonathan Papelbon
Papelbon with the Washington Nationals
Washington Nationals – No. 58
Relief pitcher
Born: (1980-11-23) November 23, 1980 (age 38)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Bats: Right Throws: Right
MLB debut
July 31, 2005, for the Boston Red Sox
MLB statistics
(through May 30, 2016)
Win–loss record 39–34
Earned run average 2.37
Strikeouts 793
Saves 363
WHIP 1.03
Career highlights and awards

Jonathan Robert Papelbon (/ˈpæpəlbɒn/; born November 23, 1980) is an American professional baseball relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball (MLB). He was a member of the Boston Red Sox, with whom he reached four consecutive Major League Baseball All-Star Games from 2006 to 2009, won the 2007 Major League Baseball Delivery Man Award, and was a 2007 World Series champion. He also played for the Philadelphia Phillies from 2012 to 2015. He has worn uniform number 58 throughout his career.

After moving from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Papelbon attended high school in Jacksonville, Florida, where he played at Bishop Kenny High School and earned all-city accolades prior to attending Mississippi State to play college baseball. Subsequently, in 2003, the Boston Red Sox drafted him in the 4th round of the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft, and he played three seasons of minor league baseball before breaking into the major leagues. His effectiveness as a pitcher centers on above-average velocity, and deceptive breaking balls that fool hitters.

Early career

Early life

Papelbon was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His mother, Sheila, played volleyball and softball at Louisiana State University.[1][2] His father, John, spent time as the Deputy Director of the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame in St. Petersburg, Florida.[3] Jonathan is the older brother of twins Josh Papelbon, former pitcher for the Brockton Rox, and Jeremy Papelbon, former pitcher for the Tennessee Smokies, the double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.

High school

Papelbon was a three-time All-City honoree while playing in high school for Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Florida.[4] Early in his senior year, he committed to play college baseball for Mississippi State University.[5]


Papelbon was a closer for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. He had a 9–6 record, 13 saves, and 2.90 ERA in his three years on the team in relief. During his time at MSU, the Bulldogs appeared in the 2001 and 2003 NCAA Tournaments and won the 2001 SEC Tournament. In the summer after his freshman year, Papelbon played with the Silver Spring-Takoma Park Thunderbolts in suburban D.C. The team is a part of a wooden bat league for college players. During the subsequent summers of his college career Papelbon played for the Danville Dans, a summer baseball team located in Danville, Illinois. Soon after arriving in Danville he easily became a crowd favorite and led the team to a CICL championship. Papelbon graduated from Mississippi State in 2003.[6]

Professional career

Major League Baseball Draft

Papelbon was drafted in the 4th round in the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft, a year after the Oakland Athletics picked him in the 40th round of the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft.[7]

Minor league career (2003–2005)

Papelbon began his minor league career as a starting pitcher for the Lowell Spinners of the New York–Penn League. In 13 games (6 started), he had a 1–2 record, a 6.34 ERA, 36 strikeouts, and 9 walks in 32.2 innings pitched.[8] After a 13–10 record for Class-A Lowell Spinners and Sarasota Red Sox from 2003–04, Papelbon was 5–2 in 14 starts for Double-A Portland in 2005. Promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, he went 1–2 with a 3.57 ERA in four starts, walking two and striking out 21 in 2213 innings.[9]

Major league career

Boston Red Sox (2005–2011)


Papelbon made his major league debut with the Red Sox on July 31, 2005 against the Minnesota Twins, in which he went 513 innings, struck out seven batters, and issued five walks in Boston's 4–3 victory.[10] He did not receive a decision.[11] He earned his first major league win on September 12, 2005, pitching three scoreless innings in an extra-inning game against the Toronto Blue Jays.[11] In two postseason appearances in 2005, he pitched four scoreless innings against the eventual World Series Champion Chicago White Sox. The Red Sox had plans of slotting Papelbon into their starting rotation prior to the regular season in 2006.[12] However, the incumbent closer, Keith Foulke, proved to be ineffective trying to come back from an injury-plagued 2005.[13]


In April 2006, he changed his hair to a Mohawk style, after Charlie Sheen's character Ricky Vaughn from the film Major League due to a wager with teammate Kevin Youkilis in which they bet whether he could start the season with 10 scoreless innings.[14]

On April 5, the second game of the 2006 season, Papelbon recorded his first career save in Texas.[8] On April 29, 2006, he set a major league record with his 10th save, against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. No rookie in major league baseball history had recorded that many saves in the month of April.[15] In early September, Papelbon injured his shoulder. When the Red Sox were eliminated from playoff contention, he was shut down for the remainder of the season to rest. The team considered using Papelbon as a starter due to his shoulder problems, but he was moved back to the bullpen before the start of the 2007 season and remained the team's closer.[16] The 25-year-old closer finished 2006 with one of the most dominant seasons ever for a rookie reliever. Papelbon saved 35 games, struck out 75 batters in 68 innings, and held opposing batters to a .167 batting average.[8]


On October 11, 2007, Papelbon was named the 2007 winner of the "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award."[8] Papelbon garnered 39,043 votes out of almost 125,000 votes cast.[17]

File:Papelbon Beckons Tek.jpg
Papelbon celebrates the Red Sox victory in the 2007 World Series

In Game 2 of the World Series, Papelbon was brought in with the bases empty and two outs in the eight with the Red Sox leading 2–1 to face Rockies hitter, Matt Holliday. Papelbon gave up a single to Holliday before picking him off to end the inning. Papelbon pitched a one-two-three ninth for the save. In Game 4, he entered in the eighth inning to shut down the Rockies' comeback, and pitched until the ninth inning where he threw the game-winning strikeout for the Red Sox as they clinched the 2007 championship.[18] He and catcher Jason Varitek then collided in a victory jump.[18]

File:Jonathan Papelbon warmups 2008.jpg
Papelbon during a pregame warmup on May 14, 2008

On March 6, 2008, Papelbon agreed to terms with the Red Sox for $775,000. Papelbon's deal set the record for the largest contract for a closer not eligible for salary arbitration, topping Mariano Rivera's previous record by $25,000. Boston was under no obligation to pay Papelbon more than the league minimum of $390,000.[19] On January 20, 2009, Papelbon agreed to a one-year $6.25 million contract with the Red Sox, avoiding arbitration. This is the largest contract for a closer in his first year of arbitration eligibility.[20] Papelbon recorded his 100th career save on July 13, 2008.[21] Among pitchers who have thrown at least 200 innings, Jonathan Papelbon's 0.930 WHIP through 2008 is the lowest in major league history.[22]


Papelbon criticized former teammate Manny Ramirez in the April 2009 issue of Esquire magazine, citing his selfishness and incapability of working with his teammates.[23][24]

On June 29, 2009, Papelbon gained his 132nd save, in a 4–0 shut out against the Baltimore Orioles, tying Bob Stanley's record for most saves by a Red Sox pitcher. On July 1, Papelbon recorded his 133rd save with the Red Sox, setting a new franchise record. On July 5, 2009, Jonathan was selected to represent Boston at the 2009 All-Star Game.

Papelbon has been cited repeatedly for his slow play; on September 4, 2009 it was reported that he had been fined $5,000 for failing to deliver his first pitch within the required time in a September 1 appearance. Papelbon told the Boston Herald that he had been cited on at least five occasions and fined more than $10,000 for these violations. Papelbon jokingly added, "I think they're going to call my parole officer and put me away."[25]

In Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS, with Boston down two games to none, Papelbon blew the save and Boston was swept. He allowed four hits and three runs; all of the runs scored with two outs.[26] His difficulties continued into the next season.


In 2010, he blew eight saves (including one against the Yankees on May 17, 2010, where he allowed four earned runs and a walk-off home run for the first time in his career), leaving the possibility of him being traded elsewhere. The Red Sox ended up keeping Papelbon as their closer, and his productivity improved over the 2011 season.


On June 7, 2011, Papelbon recorded his 200th career save against the New York Yankees, and achieved the mark in the fewest number of appearances (359), beating Mariano Rivera's mark in 382 appearances.[27] For the 2011 season, Papelbon recorded 31 saves in 34 opportunities. He blew just 3 saves all season long, but 2 occurred during the final month of the season, including the final game of the 2011 regular season; the Red Sox and Rays tied in the standings for the AL Wild Card, and Papelbon blew a 3-2 lead against the Baltimore Orioles and allowed them a walk-off win 4-3. Just moments later, the Rays won their game against the Yankees with a walk-off home run by Evan Longoria to clinch the Wild Card, capping off a nine-game comeback in the standings against Boston and officially eliminating them from the playoffs. Following the 2011 World Series, Papelbon became a free agent.

Philadelphia Phillies (2012–2015)


On November 11, 2011, Papelbon reportedly reached an agreement with the Philadelphia Phillies on a four-year, $50 million contract with a vesting option for a fifth year, bringing the total contract value to $60 million. He was signed to fill the role of former closer Ryan Madson who left to join the Reds.[28][29] The deal became official on November 14.[30]

Papelbon pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012

In Papelbon's first game for the Phillies, he had a perfect 9th inning to earn the save as the Phillies defeated the Pirates by a score of 1-0 on April 5, 2012.[31] Papelbon finished the month of April with a perfect 8 saves on 8 opportunities. During April, Papelbon started using Metallica's song "For Whom The Bell Tolls" as his entrance music.[32] On May 7, Papelbon gave up a 3 run homer to Jordany Valdespin in the top of the 9th, giving the rival New York Mets a 5-2 lead. The home run was Valdespin's first major league hit.[33] Papelbon finished the season with a career high 64 games finished, 38 saves, 92 strikeouts, and a 2.44 ERA over 70 innings pitched.[8]


Papelbon finished the 2013 season with 29 saves in 61 games.


On June 10, Papelbon earned his 300th career save in a win against the San Diego Padres, becoming the 26th member of the 300 save club. On August 26, Papelbon recorded his 100th save with the Philadelphia Phillies becoming tied for 4th on the all-time franchise saves list. On September 1, Papelbon was one of four pitchers who combined for a no-hitter in the Phillies' 7-0 win over the Atlanta Braves in Turner Field. On September 14, 2014, Papelbon blew a save against the Miami Marlins, and was booed off the mound by the fans. He subsequently made an obscene gesture towards the fans and then got into a confrontation with umpire Joe West. He was punished by MLB and suspended for 7 games.[34]


On May 13, Papelbon became the Phillies all-time saves leader with 113 saves.[35]

Washington Nationals

Papelbon began to express his discontent with being on the Phillies as the trade deadline inched closer.[36] On July 28, 2015, the Phillies traded Papelbon to the Washington Nationals for Nick Pivetta.[37] Papelbon assumed the role of Nationals' closer from Drew Storen.[38]

On September 23, Papelbon intentionally threw a pitch at Manny Machado's head. MLB suspended him for three games on September 25, but he appealed it.[39] Papelbon and teammate Bryce Harper got into an argument during their September 27 game as Harper was returning to the dugout following his at bat. The exchange escalated and Papelbon grabbed Harper by the throat and then shoved him toward the bench with both hands, before the two were separated by teammates.[40] The Nationals suspended Papelbon for four games for his role in the altercation with Harper, and Papelbon dropped his appeal of the suspension for hitting Machado. With seven games remaining for the Nationals, the pair of suspensions ended his season.[41] On December 6, 2015, Papelbon filed a grievance complaint against the Nationals organization.

Pitching style

Papelbon's velocity has fueled much discussion about his overall value as a pitcher. Around 2011, his four seam fastball reached 95 miles per hour (153 km/h),[42] however by 2013, one column on FanGraphs asserted that his velocity is "on the down side of that mountain", and that, for a reliever, he does not strike out enough hitters. Moreover, Peter Gammons tweeted that some teams are not interested in acquiring Papelbon because of his velocity decline as well as poor performance in clutch situations – in 2013, he converted only five of nine one-run save opportunities.[43]

Papelbon throws three pitches.[42] His predominant pitch is the aforementioned fastball, which he cuts with "hard sweeping movement", particularly effectively against left-handed hitters.[44] He also throws an occasional two-seam fastball, which averages 92 miles per hour (148 km/h). Secondarily, he throws a splitter, which he utilizes as a strikeout pitch and particularly "works well with the fastball".[42] His tertiary pitch is a sweeping slider, the velocity of which is around 76 miles per hour (122 km/h).[44]

Personal life

Papelbon and his wife, Ashley Jefferies, live in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Ashley gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Parker Alice, on December 27, 2008.[45] Ashley gave birth to their son, Gunner Robert, on April 17, 2010.[46]

He appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman on October 31, 2007, after the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series. On December 20, 2007, Papelbon claimed that his dog "Boss," chewed up the ball that recorded the final out of the 2007 World Series.[47]

Papelbon is an avid fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars and attends games at Everbank Field after the completion of the baseball season.[48]


  • 6x All-Star (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2015)[8]
  • Holds the single-season record for most saves in a season by a Red Sox rookie (2006).[8]
  • Second in 2006 American League Rookie of the Year voting to Justin Verlander.[8]
  • First pitcher in Boston Red Sox franchise history to have three 30 save seasons.[8]
  • Holds the Major League record for most consecutive scoreless innings to start a postseason career (25).[8]
  • Only pitcher to record 25 saves in each of his first five full seasons; he has gone beyond that and recorded 30 in each of those years.[8]
  • Fastest pitcher in MLB history to reach 200 career saves.[8]
  • Philadelphia Phillies All-Time Saves Leader
  • Boston Red Sox All-Time Saves Leader


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  48. Papelbon thankful this holiday season

External links

Preceded by
Tim Lincecum
No-hit game
September 1, 2014
(with Hamels, Diekman & Giles)
Succeeded by
Jordan Zimmermann