This is the menacing stare that will haunt teams trailing the Phillies in save situations in 2012 and in the seasons ahead.
The Phillies big-name signing of the offseason was Jonathan Papelbon, who spent seven seasons closing for the Boston Red Sox. He will make his first appearance in a Phillies uniform today during the Phillies first official Spring Training game against the New York Yankees.
Papelbon brings a freshness to the Phillies, after Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson didn’t fit the bill as closer anymore. For one, the Phillies are sending a closer to the mound that has a successful history and literally came out of nowhere. This was not an expected move. Many thought Madson would still be a Phillie…and the closer. Instead, the BoSox bullpen specialist will do the job.
Papelbon has a sense of getting into trouble when closing sometimes. For Phillies fans, a little late-game heartache will be nothing new. But Papelbon has plenty of advantages. He doesn’t pay attention to the pressure – he thrives upon it. He is new to the National League and, therefore, there is a fresh slate of hitters that don’t have experience against Papelbon. He could be in line to have one of the most successful seasons of his career, as he makes a new start in Philly.
Meanwhile, another pitcher looks for his chance. Dontrelle Willis comes into Philly looking to return his name to good favor. He was a budding young star for the Marlins before it all fell apart, and quickly. Willis has been bounced around to two teams, spent time in the minors, and nearly given up on baseball. But as long as a team like the Phillies is willing to take a chance on him, he will try to be the pitcher he was in Florida several years ago.
Willis will join Papelbon as the new Phillies to make their debut in their new uniforms this afternoon. And while both might be taking things easy this early in Spring Training, it is a welcome preview to see just what these two bring to the table.
Papelbon has a guaranteed spot and role on the team this season. Willis does not. But both are ones to watch this Spring, strictly because they’re new to the team. We only know what we have seen from the past. Now we get to see it for real, as Spring Training officially kicks off.