Papelbon speaks

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Phillies' closer Jonathan Papelbon warms up during his first spring in Clearwater. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — As far as perfunctory press conferences go, this was up there. Jonathan Papelbon sauntered into the cafeteria at Bright House Field wearing shower sandals and spent 20 minutes answering many of the same questions he fielded upon becoming the highest paid reliever ever in November.

Was it difficult to forget how last season ended in Boston?

"I don't think about it at all, man," he said. "When I was a rookie and made my first All-Star Game, I had a chance to talk to [Mariano Rivera] and asked what's the biggest thing that's going to make me successful in this game? His first answer was short-term memory."

Is there pressure to win a World Series?

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Which team is the biggest threat to the Phillies’ chances to win the NL East for the sixth straight year?

"I like pressure," he said. "That’s what makes me tick, man. I’m excited."

Has anything surprised him?

"No, not really," he said. "Maybe the fact that Jim Thome’s still in as good a shape as he’s in. But that’s about it."

The man is wired like a closer, so much that when the Red Sox attempted to move him back into the rotation in 2007, he demanded he remain the ninth-inning guy. Known for his theatrics on the mound, a number of Phillies players this winter remarked how excited they were to actually meet the person behind the intense personality.

He was reserved Saturday, on the eve of Phillies camp opening, and that was to be expected. The Riverdancing and references to Cinco Ocho, his alter ego, can wait.

But then, when Papelbon was asked if he could picture playing against Boston in October, the confidence briefly revealed itself. No, Papelbon said, it's not hard to look ahead. His current tasks are long tossing and meeting his new teammates. The rest will come later.

"But," he said, "I do know when we play the Red Sox."


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