Jonathan Papelbon lands in Philly
PHILADELPHIA -- All that stands between Jonathan Papelbon and the richest contract in the history of relief pitching is a physical, and Papelbon arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday night in preparation for taking that physical Monday.
The Phillies announced they will introduce Papelbon as their new closer at a 5 p.m. ET news conference. Papelbon agreed Friday to a four-year, $50-million contract, sources say, that would make him the Phillies' new closer. But he said Sunday night it wasn't the money that drew him to leave the Red Sox and sign with Philadelphia.
I came here (to Philadelphia) to add to my ring collection.” -- Jonathan Papelbon
"That (contract) doesn't really play a role," Papelbon told WPVI-TV's Jeff Skversky after arriving at Philadelphia International Airport. "The biggest thing that plays a role is the ability to come here and win."
The 30-year-old righthander has spent his entire career with the Red Sox. And while he admitted Sunday night that it was difficult to leave, "that's the nature of this business," he said. "I'm going to leave behind a lot of friends and a lot of memories, but it's a new chapter in my life."
Papelbon's reported $50-million package, which could grow to more than $60 million if he vests his option for 2016, according to sources, would be the most total dollars for any reliever, and would surpass the $47-million deal signed by B.J. Ryan with Toronto.
The $12.5-million average annual salary would be tied for the second-highest ever by a relief pitcher, trailing only Mariano Rivera's $15 million per year. So it was fitting that Papelbon paid homage to Rivera on Sunday night, saying that this contract was only possible because of the all-time saves leader.
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"I think the one guy to really make teams in Major League Baseball realize how important (saving games) was is Mariano Rivera," Papelbon said. "He's the one that started this, and I'm just following in his footsteps."
Papelbon has faced the Phillies in interleague play in each of the last four seasons and has never given up a run in five career appearances at Citizens Bank Park. He spoke Sunday like a man who was looking forward to pitching for the Phillies instead of against them for the next four years.
"I'm extremely excited," he told WPVI. "I think that we're going to be able to have ballclub that's going be able to go and compete for a championship. I think, for me, that's the biggest thing and that's all you can ask for. ...
"I came here," he said, "to add to my ring collection."
Jayson Stark is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com.
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