Pitching coach John Farrell feels that Papelbon just needs to make some minor mechanical adjustments and he'll be right back to the dominance he's been accustomed to.
"It's a subtle thing," Farrell said. "When you look to the outings leading up to the two outings in Colorado, he had been dominant. To say that the results of two outings are going to cause him to go back to the drawing board to remake things, that isn't needed. There's no physical issues or anything that have nagged him or plagued him. Part of it is just from a confidence standpoint, too. He was on a good run and he ran into two nights in a row that didn't go his way."
Papelbon's ERA is 3.98, nearly double his career ERA of 2.05.
So what was the problem the last two games?
"There's been some fastballs, obviously, that have found the middle of the plate," Farrell said. "When he's tried to go to either side of the plate, he's either yanked some balls in the middle of the plate or he's let some balls leak back over the plate. The other night, there was obviously some very quick aggression in terms of some early swings. He didn't really have a chance to get ahead in the count. And they did a good job on some balls over the middle of the plate."
So it's a mechanical thing?
"There's certainly some of that," Farrell said. "I wouldn't say there's anything drastically different than what he's thrown. The location of pitches and how he's delivered the ball has been a little bit more side-to-side than a north-to-south approach when he's able to stay on the side of the plate he's intending. And it caused his split to get flat and he pulled it into [Jason] Giambi the other night for the game-winner."
Papelbon will get Friday off after throwing 32 pitches Thursday and eight the night before. The Red Sox have full confidence he will make the necessary adjustments by the time he is called on next.
"He's well aware of it," Farrell said. "He's had a chance to review film, talk with him about it. And yet the freedom to come in and work on things isn't always available in the role that he's in. We continually address it during early work and through conversation and dry drills on the mound. That's been the process we've used for the three-plus years we've worked together and we'll continue to do so."