Don’t count on the Cubs signing former closer Jonathan Papelbon to push into the revolving door they’ve spun through their transformed bullpen over the last month.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday he hasn’t heard anything from the front office about getting the former Red Sox All-Star who was released by the Nationals last week.
That’s because it’s not going to happen, a source said later in the day.
But contrary to what seemed to be conventional wisdom from the anti-Papelbon crowd, the issues with the right-hander are more about the quality of pitching that caused the contending Nats to jettison him than the bad-boy image underscored by his choking of teammate Bryce Harper in the dugout last September.
As one longtime National League scout said: “They don’t need him.”
In fact, when it comes to potentially adverse personalities, Maddon said he believes his clubhouse can absorb
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he’s heard no indication the Cubs are trying to add veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon to their bullpen, but he believes his clubhouse these days is strong enough to absorb it without disruption.
“I’ve never been opposed to that, the [negative] perception of outside looking in, because I do have a lot of faith in our guys,” Maddon said. “When you’ve got a good room with good people in it, I think if you look at really good teams throughout different sports they’ve bee able to take people that come in that maybe weren’t viewed well outside, and all of a sudden they become model citizens.
“That’s not because of the manager or the coach. That’s because of the room, that’s because of that group. I really have a lot of faith in our players that regardless of who we put in that room, these guys would pretty much have the new person understand this is how we do things here or even more importantly that’s not how we do things here.”
With Pedro Strop on the disabled with a knee injury and other relievers struggling in recent days, the Cubs have been viewed by many as a natural landing spot for Papelbon – who recorded the final out of the 2007 World Series for Theo Epstein’s Red Sox.
“The guys [in the front office] have not discussed him with me,” Maddon said before the opener of a doubleheader Tuesday against the Brewers. “I have not heard a lot of scuttlebutt about the clubhouse, either. I like our group right now.
“I’m not saying that it can’t happen; don’t get me wrong. But for right now there is nothing happening.”
Papelbon, 35, has supporters in the clubhouse among former teammates that include John Lackey, David Ross and Jon Lester.
“I know things probably didn’t go the way he wanted them to in Washington, but as far as his persona and his personality and the way he goes about things on the mound, I think he could definitely help,” Lester said.
Lester talked with team president Theo Epstein Monday night about Papelbon, mostly to explain that comments he made over the weekend in support of Papelbon weren’t meant to suggest he was lobbying the front office for him.
“I didn’t say sign him or get him,” Lester said. “I just kind of defended him not being a Loony Toon more than anything.”
As much as anything, Lester defended Papelbon’s character after it took a major public hit last fall when he scuffled in the dugout with Harper, as TV cameras caught it for posterity.
He drew a team suspension and didn’t pitch the final week of the season.
“I don’t know what Theo and those guys are thinking, but as far as a clubhouse guy, he’s a good clubhouse guy,” Lester said. “I think people just assume based on one event he’s an a—— and a troublemaker and all that stuff. I played with him a long time and never had an issue with him, ever.”
Some reports suggested Papelbon would sign with a new team by Wednesday.
“Most closers are a little different,” Lester said. “He’s going to have that different mentality and people can misconstrue that as being a little crazy. But he’s no crazier than the rest of us on the day we pitch.”