Jonathan Papelbon has not been Mr. Popular in Philadelphia, not after he was frequently unreliable last season, lost several MPH on his fastball, and blew a save in incredulous fashion against the Rangers on Wednesday. Fortunately for him, though, manager Ryne Sandberg stuck with him and asked him to get the save on Saturday afternoon against the Cubs. He did, nailing down the 2-0 victory for the Phillies.
After the game, Papelbon was asked about the ups and downs of being a closer. Via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki on Twitter, Papelbon used an interesting analogy:
Space Mountain, for the uninitiated, is the name of a roller coaster at Disney World. Papelbon went back into serious mode, adding that he recognizes the need to be a pitcher as opposed to a thrower, considering he was only registering 90-91 MPH against the Cubs.
Papelbon, 33, is in the third year of a four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies. However, he has a fifth-year option for 2016 worth $13 million that can potentially vest, as it requires the right-hander to finish 55 games in 2015 or finish 100 combined games between 2014-15. It’s certainly a contract GM Ruben Amaro is starting to regret.
UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.
8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.
Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.
After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.
Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”
You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.
O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.
Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.
Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.
At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.
Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports that Twins reliever J.R. Graham has lost “roughly 30-40 pounds this offseason.” It’s not a result of workouts, though. Just a change in diet. Bollinger says that Graham cut out sugar, alcohol and foods heavy in carbs and focused on a high-protein diet with lots of salads, meats and vegetables.
That’s an awful lot of weight to lose in four months, but the dude is only 26 and guys in their 20s lose weight just by thinking about it. Which is so very annoying to those of us who aren’t guys in their 20s.
The real test, of course, will come when he is working out far more strenuously once spring training starts and gets into the season. Normal schmos like me can keep up that kind of diet without much of a hitch as long as we have the willpower. An athlete’s energy requirements are far greater and far more specialized, so he’ll need more fuel than he’s probably been getting this offseason. Word is, however, that professional sports teams have people on staff that, you know, have made monitoring that kind of thing their life’s work.
In the meantime:
“I can just feel the change,” Graham said. “The energy. Everything. I feel great. I’m excited to see how it’ll translate into spring. I know I shouldn’t have any problems because I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m faster. All that. So it’s really exciting.”
It’s very exciting indeed. Because, with that, Graham becomes the latest baseball player to be . . . In The Best Shape of His Life.