Jonathan Papelbon, slugger?

May, 8, 2011
BOSTON -- This is the Red Sox side of the box score for Saturday's 4-0 win over the Minnesota Twins? Notice anything different?

That's right, Jonathan Papelbon, p, is listed among the team's batters. How'd that happen? Well, the Sox lost the DH when J.D. Drew pinch-hit for shortstop Marco Scutaro, third baseman Jed Lowrie slid over to play short and DH Kevin Youkilis entered the game to play third. Papelbon, who entered to pitch the ninth, was thus in the lineup. Either he -- or a pinch hitter -- would have batted if his turn came around in the ninth, seven spots down.

Look, we're all grown-ups here and recognize this as an academic exercise. If the Sox had blown a 4-0 lead in the ninth, Paps wouldn't even have stayed in the game pitching, never mind hitting.

But it's an excuse to discuss Papelbon's experience as a hitter. He has never had an at-bat in the big leagues. He has never had an at-bat in the minor leagues. Papelbon thought he got to the on-deck circle in the 2007 World Series, but a review of the play-by-play of Games 3 and 4 don't support that claim. In both games he entered to pitch in the eighth and came back out for the ninth, but neither time did he enter the on-deck circle.

"The last time I took pitchers' batting practice was in high-A ball,'' Papelbon said, referring to the 2004 season in which he played for Sarasota in the Florida State League. "I hit 5 out of 10 out.''

Surprised at his prowess? You shouldn't be, Papelbon said. He was recruited by Mississippi State as a position player out of Bishop Kenny High in Jacksonville. "I was recruited as a first baseman, outfielder, pitcher, kind of everything,'' he said. "They didn't know what to do with me. I only pitched like three games my senior year, two no-hitters and close to a no-hitter.

"When I was a freshman at Mississippi State, the coach pulled me aside and said, 'Hey, if you want to be in the big leagues, you need to be a pitcher.'''

Papelbon, of course, heeded the advice. But in the rare likelihood that he gets a chance to hit, he agreed, he'll be hacking.

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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