FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jonathan Papelbon's fastball is once again exploding into the catchers' mitt, and that is leaving the closer with a pretty good feeling.
Papelbon fired a scoreless inning in Saturday's 11-2 loss to the Marlins, and the righty hasn't given up a run in his first three Grapefruit League outings.
"The biggest thing I'm pleased with is my fastball right now," Papelbon said. "It's got that late life to it, which is always a plus for me. I've been able to go out there and throw my slider and split just as much, which has been a key for me, because it's something I'm going to definitely be able to do this year. Both of those pitches feel really well."
Last year, Papelbon blew a career-high eight saves. The lack of command and late life on his fastball was probably the top reason.
"My delivery wasn't on time," Papelbon said. "Timing is everything, and I didn't have that timing last year."
Perhaps because he had never dealt much with failure before, Papelbon struggled to adapt on the fly last season. By the time he got things figured out, the Red Sox, besieged by injuries, were slipping out of playoff contention.
"I started to try to do too much, and obviously, when you do too much, you search for answers," Papelbon said. "Things start to go haywire a little bit. For me, I simplified everything -- simplified my delivery, tried to make it be on time."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.