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Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Papelbon says he should close, then defers to Rivera

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Confidence is a key element in a relief pitcher's mental makeup. And Boston's Jonathan Papelbon and the Yankees' Mariano Rivera, two of the game's best closers, don't lack for it.

Gotta Go To Mo

Whom should Terry Francona call on for a save in the All-Star Game? If he wants to honor baseball history -- and preserve his good name in New York -- Francona's only choice is Mariano Rivera, writes Buster Olney. Blog Insider
Consider Papelbon, who on Monday suggested -- before toning down his comments -- that he should pitch the ninth in Tuesday night's All-Star Game rather than Rivera, even though the game is at Yankee Stadium.

"We've both earned that right; us, by winning the World Series and having the opportunity of having our manager there and our team being represented, and Mariano by what he's done for this role, we're in Yankee Stadium and blah, blah, blah," Papelbon said. "It's not that easy. Everybody thinks it's a cut and dry answer, but it's not.

"If I was managing the team, I would close," Papelbon said. "I'm not managing the team, so it don't matter."

But Rivera feels the same way about taking the mound for the ninth. "It's definitely tough, but we're here in Yankee Stadium. I think I should get the shot," Rivera said. "I definitely would love to. Knowing [Red Sox manager] Terry Francona, I have a feeling he'll put me there if we have the opportunity to close the game."

Francona, who is managing the AL thanks to Boston's 2007 World Series triumph, was mum when asked who would pitch the ninth. "Out of the spirit of the game and competition, and having a little bit of fun, we're not going to announce the rest of our rotation yet," Francona said.

In additional comments on Monday, Papelbon lessened the suspense, saying Rivera should get the nod.

"I'm making a statement right now, saying I don't want it, I want [Rivera] to have it. I said all that earlier, but that's the way I feel about it," Papelbon said.

"This is what I think, of course I want to close the game out. I wouldn't be Jonathan Papelbon if I didn't want to close the game out," he said. "But at the same time, there's also things within this game I have to understand and people have to understand. It doesn't always work out that way.

"I feel I owe a lot to this game and that's one of the things I owe to this game, to let an elder statesman go ahead of me."