Proven closer or not: Papelbon is as good as gone

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FOX’s Jon Paul Morosi has a column up today in which he argues that the Red Sox have to bring Jonathan Papelbon back next year.  His reasoning: he’s a Proven Closer! Sure, Daniel Bard may be good, but he’s never pitched the ninth inning!  If you let Papelbon go and Bard closes, who pitches the eighth?!

It’s nothing we haven’t read before when closer controversies arise. Closing is different and special and mysterious yadda, yadda yadda. I got tired of ripping that stuff a few years ago so I’ll refrain from doing it again. I’ll just note that when the best closer of all time moved from starting to being a setup man to being a closer for a championship team without any previous closing experience, I’d say that the concept of the Proven Closer is pretty much garbage. At least if you don’t think the Yankees should have kept John Wetteland around a few more years. 

The most striking thing about it, though, is that the piece has only one brief mention of the most salient fact regarding Jonathan Papelbon and 2011: his eight figure salary.  And he’ll get it if the Sox want to bring him back, because he’s arbitration-eligible and arbitration does not lower salaries for guys like Papelbon. It raises them. He makes $9.35 million this year. He got a $3 million raise last year. You figure out how expensive he’s going to be in 2011.

Sure, some teams are happy to pay $12 million for a shaky closer who splits time as a setup man, but the Red Sox aren’t that kind of team. Barring Daniel Bard getting run over by a streetcar*, I’d bet my son that Papelbon gets non-tendered or otherwise shipped out this winter.

*Yes, this is my second “run over by a streetcar” reference today. I just woke up with the idea in my head for some reason. 

Three A’s rookies hit their first big league home runs on Saturday

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The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.

Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:

Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:

In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.

The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.

Athletics call up top prospect Franklin Barreto

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The Athletics called up their top prospect on Saturday, inserting shortstop Franklin Barreto into the lineup for their second game against the White Sox. Barreto was originally scheduled to make his major league debut on Sunday, but got a head start after Jed Lowrie sustained a minor knee sprain in Friday’s 3-0 win and was scratched from Saturday’s lineup.

Barreto, 21, has been rapidly climbing the rungs of the A’s minor league system after getting dealt by the Blue Jays in 2014. He got his first taste of Triple-A action late last year, going 6-for-17 with three RBI and getting caught stealing in two attempts. He fared little better this spring, slashing .281/.326/.428 with eight home runs and a .754 OPS through his first 309 PA in Nashville.

While his minor league production has been solid, if underwhelming for a prospect of his caliber, the A’s are expected to give the rookie infielder a long leash with both Marcus Semien and Chad Pinder sitting on the disabled list. Pinder landed on the 10-day DL after suffering a left hamstring strain on Friday. Semien, meanwhile, is still working his way back from the 60-day DL with a right wrist fracture and likely won’t rejoin the team until he completes a rehab assignment with High-A Stockton.