After the Washington Nationals made it official this afternoon, releasing veteran reliever Jonathan Papelbon, Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker talked to reporters about what he said was a difficult decision.
“It was a tough decision and [we] let him go because there wasn’t a real fit any more,” Baker said.
“And [I] didn’t know where to use him. Pap understood, because he told us last night that he felt like he was putting pressure on me and putting pressure on the bullpen where guys had to pick up innings where they might not have pitched in ordinarily.
“So, we let Pap go, we released him last night. His agent said it would be better if we released him versus designating him for assignment, it would have been tougher to get him a job because he would have had to wait for ten days or so.”
After the Nationals acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the days leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline, Papelbon pitched in just two games, both of them lopsided affairs.
Papelbon, 35, was (2-4) with 19 saves in 22 opportunities this season, putting up a 4.37 ERA, a 3.68 FIP, 14 walks (3.60 BB/9) and 31 Ks (7.97 K/9) in 35 IP.
When the trade for Melancon was made, Papelbon told reporters he was on board with the move and the Nationals’ plans. Baker was asked today how the reliever reacted the last few weeks.
“I think he handled it as well as any man could handle it,” Baker said.
“When the ball is taken from you because you get somebody else, he realizes that this is part of the game, it’s not a very pleasant part of the game, but it is a reality and you must pass the baton at some point in time to somebody else whether you’re ready to pass the baton or not sometimes.”
“Everybody likes to play and everybody likes to feel important, but there weren’t many situations that I could’ve used Pap in.”
When they made the decision and the Nationals told Papelbon the news, Baker said he handled it well.
“Pap was a professional,” Baker said. “He’s never run from anything. He’s faced the music whether it was good or bad and he handled it like a pro.
“This is what we kind of expected from Pap, even though it was tough letting him go. He was a great teammate. He was popular with his teammates. They knew that he had their back and they had his, and so we wish Pap the best.
“He wished us the best, wanted us to win it, those were his parting words and he was a big part of what we had accomplished already.
“Whether he pitches any more I don’t really know, which I hope he does, because he was hoping to get to 400 saves this year.
“There aren’t that many guys that are in the Top 10 of their profession, so he’s done some great things in his career.”
Does Papelbon’s career end here? He was not exactly in demand when the Nationals acquired him.
There was no trade offer that convinced GM Mike Rizzo to trade him this winter.
Will someone gamble on the volatile veteran, or is this the end of the line for the right-hander?