PHILADELPHIA -- Cinco Ocho had the day off Tuesday, but Jonathan Papelbon decided to hang out for a bit.
Four days before Papelbon was to meet up with his former Red Sox teammates, the Phillies closer leaned back in his clubhouse chair, packing his things for Philadelphia's two-game trip to Chicago. His mood was good. The Phillies had won in extra innings against the Astros, 4-3, and his arm had been saved after three straight days of appearances.
It was a clubhouse tone that could have easily been turned inside-out after Papelbon's replacement for the day, Chad Qualls, gave up two runs in the ninth to send the series finale into extras. (For those keeping score, it was the seventh time in seven tries a Phillies reliever not named Papelbon had failed to convert a save this season, while the former Sox game-ender -- and his alter-ego, Mr. Ocho -- has gone 10-for-10.)
So, with rave reviews having followed Papelbon thus far in his first National League season, was he anxious about meeting up with his former mates?
"It won't be weird. It might be a little weird for Pap, but it won't be weird for Cinco," Papelbon explained. "Cinco is like a Great White, when he smells blood he attacks."
Has he felt bad for some of the turmoil those Red Sox left behind from the chaos of 2011 have had to endure?
"Cinco don't feel bad," he said. "Cinco's [heart]less. He don't feel bad for people. Pap felt bad. I didn't feel bad for some of the players. It was more that I missed some of the guys."
And what about the idea of former bullpen-mate Alfredo Aceves taking up his former closer's role with the Sox?
"I think he definitely can [be a closer]. He's got [expletive] of steel," Papelbon said. "That's what it takes. You've got to have a big set of doberman [expletive] to close."
It's fair to say, changes of teams, leagues and surroundings haven't altered either Papelbon or Cinco Ocho. Attitude is the same, as is the production. The Phillies closer is throwing 95 mph with his usual above-average split and ever-improving slider. The result has been 18 strikeouts and just four runs in 15 innings.
But it's fair to say that, despite the move from one organization to another, the circumstances that led Papelbon to Philadelphia are still very fresh on the pitcher's mind.
"No, man. I wasn't surprised," he said when asked if it caught him off guard that the Red Sox didn't try to match Philadelphia's four-year, $50 million offer. "Let me tell you something: Cinco don't know how he do, he just do. Cinco knows a lot more than you think Cinco knows, at times. Put it that way."
A CONFLICT WITH THE SOX
The conversation regarding Papelbon's mindset as he barreled toward free agency last season and in the offseason started with the simple topic of durability. Not only has the baseball world watched as the most durable of closers, Mariano Rivera, was lost for the season -- "He'll always be the Godfather. I truly do believe if anybody can come back, it's him," Papelbon said -- but the likes of Andrew Bailey, Ryan Madson, Sergio Santos, Kyle Farnsworth and other closers have been dropping due to injuries.
Papelbon, on the other hand, has never been on the disabled list once, having tied Rivera for the second-most saves (229) of any pitcher since 2006.
"I think it's more talked about with the closers who aren't durable than the ones who are. I get it," he said. He was then asked if the Red Sox had put the correct value on his durability during contract negotiations. "No, I don't [think so]. I don't think any closer is going to be valued in that way. We're the life of an NFL kicker, man. Hero, goat, pick one."
Then, just like that, an old Red Sox wound appeared to be re-opened.
"I feel like I have [been one of the most durable closers in the game]," he said. "I feel like I've been durable just as much as anybody else out there. I know myself better than anybody. I know myself better than any trainer in Boston, [who] tried to tell me that they knew me better. That goes with experience, knowing yourself, trusting yourself and listening to what you have to listen to and not listening to things you know aren't going to make you stay durable.
"The previous trainer tried to tell me that he knew everything about me. It's just not the case. I know myself. I knew how to get through a 162-game season. A trainer doesn't know how to do that. The trainers here have been phenomenal. They understand that I'm going to be successful because I know how to be successful. I still did things my way when I was there in Boston, I just had somebody chirping in my ear the whole time. … You stay in your own lane, you'll be fine. I'll stay in my lane, I know what I need to do, I'll be fine."
Papelbon went on to explain that ever since the incident in September 2006, when his season was ended due to a subluxed right shoulder, he had been at odds with the training staff regarding how to approach his preparation.
Asked how long the conflicts had occurred, the reliever said, "The whole time I was there, mostly."
Was it difficult for Papelbon to push back on the advice of the medical staff? "Not for me, because I'm confident in my ability and nobody is going to tell me what to do," he said. "Nobody tells Cinco what to do." He then continued, saying, "There's a lot in this segment we're in right now. All of it goes back to there's a lot to say about teams and trainers, etc., that trust their players and let their players go out and do their jobs."
When told of Papelbon's comments, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington responded via e-mail, writing: "Jonathan had a very successful tenure in Boston and his durability was a hallmark of that success. [Former manager] Tito [Francona], the coaching staff, and medical staff worked hard to put him in the best position to succeed. But as with any player the lion's share of the credit goes to Jonathan for taking care of himself. His effort and performance put him in a position to do well in free agency and we wish him well."
LOOKING AT WHO'S COMING AND GOING
Papelbon knew the Red Sox might be allocating their money elsewhere even before Philadelphia swept in with its offer. But the closer was always reserving final judgment until a contract had been signed. With that in mind, the pitcher was weighing the pros and cons of sticking around. As he said, "A lot of it would have depended on who was coming in and who was going out."
He was asked for clarification: Personnel decisions actually would play a role on whether Papelbon would stay or go? "No doubt," he said. "One hundred percent. Who was going to staying there, who was going to be leaving. I'm talking about medical. I'm talking about coaches. I'm talking about players. I'm talking about everything."
"The right people left, but the right people didn't stay, for me," Papelbon explained.
The pitcher went on to say that among those who would have helped draw him back was bullpen coach Gary Tuck. He also liked Cherington and since-departed general manager Theo Epstein. But, according to Papelbon, perhaps the most powerful change in the structure of the organization came when the Red Sox and Francona parted ways (which occurred before the deal with Philadelphia was agreed upon).
"A huge light bulb went off in my head," said Papelbon of his feeling when Francona's fate was determined. "I wouldn't say that was it, but it was about 99.9 percent [sure of not returning]. Yeah, I was shocked."
Yet, despite the desire for certain changes within the Red Sox organization, the pitcher doesn't believe the roster needed a major overhaul. He wanted to emphasize that the lightning rods during the team's September collapse -- the starting pitchers -- in particular didn't need to be shipped out.
"No, man, you can't do that," Papelbon said of potentially blowing up the roster. "That starting staff are professional pitchers, man. I don't care who you are in the big leagues, you're going to go through rough patches, especially in that division. Personally, I would want those guys to go into war with, to go through those rough patches because they know how to get out of them. There's no doubt about that."
As Papelbon was talking, up on the clubhouse television was Josh Beckett, which prompted the question to be asked if the Sox' Tuesday starter against the Mariners actually was a leader among the hurlers. "Yeah," Papelbon said. "[Expletive] yeah."
"These are grown-ass men," he added. "This ain't the semi-pros. This is the pros."
Eventually, as the players around him started packing their bags in preparation for the Phillies' short road trip to Chicago to play the Cubs, Papelbon started moving toward his own exit. A few minutes rehashing the memories -- both good and bad -- of his old team was enough for now. In a few days, when the Red Sox arrive as visitors in Papelbon's new home, there will be more time for that.
Finally, a question was asked that Papelbon had no hesitation in answering: The way everything shook out -- money aside -- did he feel he made the right decision?
"If you tell me I can look into a crystal ball, and that I can tell you these people are going to be here and these people are going to be there and I can see what I've got here," he said, "I leave."