CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jonathan Papelbon wants to be a more positive influence in his third season with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Papelbon left the Boston Red Sox for a $50 million, four-year contract with Philadelphia in November 2011. But the Phillies had a .500 record in 2012 and went 73-89 last season for the franchise’s first losing record in 11 years, and Papelbon did not take it well.
“I definitely didn’t come here for this,” Papelbon told MLB.com during an eight-game losing streak last July.
Speaking Monday afternoon at Bright House Field, Philadelphia’s spring home, Papelbon said he is trying to leave the negativity in the past.
“This year, I’m definitely trying to be a lot more of a positive influence and be more upbeat,” he said.
Papelbon’s run of seven straight seasons with 30 or more saves came to an end when he went 5-1 last year with 29 saves in 36 chances and a 2.92 ERA. Only three regular closers in the major leagues had more blown saves than the right-hander.
The injury-plagued Phillies finished fourth in the National Leauge East despite sporting one of the top payrolls in the league.
In addition to admitting he’d rather be on another team last summer, Papelbon also pointed fingers around the clubhouse without naming names, saying some teammates lacked fundamentals. None of his comments were received very well within the organization or among fans.
“I know I said a lot of things that have come in the middle of 10- to 12-game losing streaks that come out with emotion,” Papelbon said. “I’ve always been an emotional type of player. That’s just the way I am. This year, that emotion has turned into so much more of a positive than a negative.”
Papelbon didn’t go as far to say he was part of the problem last year with his strongly voiced opinions. The vocal closer said his words were “taken in a couple of different directions” that “may or may not have been right.”
Papelbon, a three-time All-Star in Boston, said the perception that he’s not a good teammate is “definitely not true.”
“I’d break my back for my teammates,” he said. “I’d do anything. They’re my brothers. I’m with them more than my family. If you could ask all 25 guys in there, I live and die for my teammates.”
Papelbon is encouraged with the overall positive attitude in camp, which he credited to new manager Ryne Sandberg. The Phillies are attempting to rebound from back-to-back underachieving seasons by returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Sandberg said he thinks Papelbon is ready to move on from last year,
“He had regrets about what he said,” said Sandberg, who took over after Charlie Manuel was fired last August. “I think in some regards, from the input that I got back . he really wasn’t sure what he said. I know the guy wants to win, I know he looks good in camp, I know that he’s taken on a leadership role within his group.
“I’ve had those conversations with him about being on the team and being one of the guys. That’s what I’m going to continue to instill on him and let him know he’s one of the guys. This is still his team.”