Papelbon says he's 'happy to be free' of Phillies
MIAMI — All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon wants to win another championship and become baseball's career saves leader. He likes his chances with the Washington Nationals.
"The biggest reason why I accepted this trade to come here because I've played against these guys for four years now and I've seen the way the organization has become and it's a fitting organization for me," Papelbon said Wednesday, a day after he was trade from Philadelphia to Washington.
"It's a bunch of baseball players here that want to win and that's all I ask for, to come here and try to win and I think it was the best fit for me to get out of Philly. It made no difference to give up the $2 million to come here. To me it's all about winning and being at a place that I'm happy."
Papelbon helped Boston win the World Series in 2007.
In the deal Tuesday, the major league-worst Phillies received Double-A right-hander Nick Pivetta and will pay Washington $4.5 million by Oct. 15, covering most of the $4,830,601 remaining on Papelbon's salary this year.
"For years, I was supposed to get traded and for years it didn't happen so there's build up there," Papelbon said. "It keeps building up and building up and when you get told certain things and it don't happen there's frustration involved, but I understand at the same time it's a business as well. I'm just happy to be here and I'm happy to be free. I feel like it's a new life."
The 34-year-old Papelbon leaves Philadelphia as the franchise's career saves leader with 123 and is also Boston's leader with 219. He's 12th on the career list with 342 saves. Mariano Rivera is the leader with 652.
Papelbon said he would not accept a trade unless he would remain a closer, and agreed to waive his no-trade clause after getting the assurances he needed from Washington. Drew Storen, who has converted 29 of 31 save opportunities, will shift to primarily a setup role.
"For me I'm getting up there on the all-time closing list and that's important to me," Papelbon said. "When Theo (Epstein) had me as a young kid in Boston and he wanted to start to me and I said, 'No, I'm a closer, that's what I want to be, and that's who I am.' This is what I envisioned. I envisioned chasing Mariano and I've told Mariano that at many All-Star games, 'I'm coming after you.' So that's part of it.
"Ego may be a part or whatever you want to say, but for me it's a path that I started 11 years ago and now I'm trying to do everything I can to continue that and win championships as a closer."
Storen did not initially take the news well, but Papelbon says he has spoken to Storen about his arrival and Storen's change in roles.
"I told Drew, 'Listen I don't want to come here unless you talk to (general manager) Mike (Rizzo) and everyone is OK with it,"' Papelbon said. "'I don't want to come here and upset anyone. I just want to come here and win.' I think that Drew realized that."
Washington (52-46) has been in first place for a majority of the time since the middle of May, but its lead dropped to one game over the New York Mets (52-48) following a 4-1 loss to Miami on Tuesday night. The Nationals to 3-7 in their last 10 games.
The Nationals hope the addition of Papelbon as well as the return of Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman from the disabled list with Stephen Strasburg close to a return will help secure the team's third playoff appearance in the past four seasons.
"I like the fact that he's been there," Nationals manager Matt Williams said about Papelbon. "He's been in the heat. He's been in the postseason. He understands the everyday grind of being a closer. He understands how to be a good teammate and he's expressed that since he's been here. He wants to win and he feels we have a chance to do that. We're a better team with him."
The Nationals continue their three-game series with the Marlins on Wednesday night.
"I know (Papelbon) is excited to be here and he's eager to get in there and pitch so hopefully we get an opportunity to get him in there tonight," Williams said.