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Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Epstein: Papelbon is the closer

By Joe McDonald

Theo Epstein made it clear there will be no closer controversy in spring training, stating during a conference call to announce the signing of Bobby Jenks that he was bringing in Jenks to help set up Jonathan Papelbon.

"We feel really lucky that Bobby wanted to pitch here, and we were able to get someone of his caliber to join our bullpen and help Dan Bard set up for Pap," Epstein said. "It's not every day you can bring in someone of his caliber without a closer opening. We feel lucky that it happened.

"We obviously still see [Papelbon] as our closer and now we have two power setup guys to get him the ball in the ninth inning. Pap, I'm sure, is fine with this. Who wouldn't want guys like this pitching alongside him in the bullpen? Pap kind of disappears during the offseason and does his own thing and then shows up ready to go in spring training, and in great shape as always.

"Every time we add someone of quality to the bullpen he's excited about it, and that should certainly be the case again this time."

Epstein said he has kept Papelbon's agent up to speed this offseason as to the direction of the bullpen and the types of pitchers the club was talking to. Because Papelbon completely shuts himself off from the baseball world during the offseason, Epstein left him a voicemail once the club signed Jenks.

Papelbon is eligible for arbitration this offseason and is expected to command a salary in the $11 million range. He is eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.

Click here for more on Jenks and Epstein from today's conference call.