Papelbon focused on winning after rough season

Jonathan Papelbon insists he is focused solely on winning.

It doesn’t matter that he’s coming off the worst season of his

career, in his last season before he’s eligible for free agency, or

that Boston acquired fellow closer Bobby Jenks.

”I don’t know how much of a degree being a free agent will

affect me,” Papelbon said. ”I didn’t change very much this

offseason (from) the previous offseason except for a few things as

far as getting in shape and the mental side of things.

”It’s not something that I’m going to really think about. The

biggest thing that I’m focused on right now that I see where my

concentration is, is getting ready for the season and putting

myself in a position to help this ball club, because I know that

our ball club on paper is a very good one and I know that we still

have to go out there and prove our worth.”

Papelbon was given a one-year, $12 million contract in January,

after going 5-7 with a 3.90 ERA and 37 saves last season. Across

the board, most of his numbers were career worsts.

”Every season you reflect on the type of season you had,”

Papelbon said. ”For me, obviously it was a down season. But I

think you tend to take things from each season and you try to learn

from them. For me, I definitely took some things for me that I’m

going to try to do the same and some things I’m going to try and do

different and carry it into this season.”

In December, the Red Sox acquired Jenks as a free agent and gave

him a two-year, $12 million deal. They were also reported to have

made an offer to Mariano Rivera, leading many to speculate the Red

Sox would not bring Papelbon back.

If Papelbon falters this season, the Sox could replace him in

the closer’s role with Jenks, who has 173 career saves, or

right-hander Daniel Bard.

”I view it as a pretty strong acquisition,” Papelbon said of

Jenks, now his competition for the closing job. ”He’s going to be

a big role on not only my success but the team’s success and

everyone else’s success. So I think that when you add a guy like

Bobby and what he can bring to this team I think it kind of speaks

for itself.”

While many observers have assumed this will be Papelbon’s final

season in a Red Sox uniform, Papelbon insists that is not a given –

merely a possibility.

”For me, I just kind of leave it at that,” he said. ”I don’t

really sit there and think every day or every time I’m going to go

out there and play, ‘Oh, this could be my last time in a Red Sox

uniform’ or ‘This could be my last time on the Red Sox now.’

Whatever.

”Honestly, I’m not going to think about that,” Papelbon said.

”We’re in a position that it’s going to be put up or shut up. (GM

Theo Epstein) put us in a spot to where he’s given us all the tools

to go out there and succeed, and if I’m worrying about free agency,

if David (Ortiz) is worrying about getting another deal and

somebody else is worrying about this, that and the other, we won’t

be the team we’re supposed to be. So I’m not really thinking about

it.”