When he comes sprinting out of the bullpen, the Red Sox generally think they're going to win. And for the most part, they do.
This, on the heels of his first 40-save season. In just three years, Papelbon has already established himself as one of the elite closers in the history of the Red Sox. He is the only man to top 30 saves for the club in three different seasons.
"It feels good to be in the Papelbon club. I don't know what to tell you," quipped Papelbon when he accomplished that feat. "It is pretty amazing, because it doesn't seem like it's that much of a big deal. I don't think it is. The goal is to get every save I can. It feels good to be able to do that and hopefully this is the beginning of a long run. I'm not really satisfied with it by any means."
Everyone who votes for the DHL Delivery Man of the Year will be entered into a sweepstakes for the chance to win a two-day, one-night trip for two to Game 4 of this year's World Series. The prize will include round-trip airfare, if needed, to the National League city of the Fall Classic, as well as accommodations and two tickets to the game.
To create the ballot, the editorial staff at MLB.com compiled a list of 15 relievers who have had outstanding regular seasons. The 10 finalists then were chosen from the list by a special Major League Baseball yellow-ribbon panel.
The list is impressive. Along with Papelbon, the ballot is filled out by Francisco Rodriguez (Angels), Brad Lidge (Phillies), Mariano Rivera (Yankees), Joakim Soria (Royals), B.J. Ryan (Blue Jays), Brian Fuentes (Rockies), Joe Nathan (Twins), Bobby Jenks (White Sox) an Brad Ziegler (Athletics).
How important is Papelbon to the Red Sox?
"Huge," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "You have an end to your bullpen. You have somebody to lean on through the toughest parts of the game. I've been here when it was by committee, and we didn't have somebody before Flash [Tom Gordon]. Then, Flash had it and Foulkey [Keith Foulke] came in and now Pap. It's a huge part to know that you have that guy."
Papelbon relishes being that guy, which is why he gave up his previous goal of being a starting pitcher and has instead settled into his status as an elite closer.
"As this role has become what it is now, I want to definitely be one of the guys to be at the top of the closers. I always want to be the best," said Papelbon.
Papelbon has set such high standards for himself that when he had two subpar games in the same week in mid-September, there was fear that something was wrong with him.
"There's a human factor involved in this thing," Papelbon said. "We are human. We are going to make mistakes. Yeah, I'm human."
He didn't look it from June 24-Sept. 8, when he converted 15 consecutive save opportunities.
Papelbon, who had a 2.00 ERA as of Sept. 23, will try to post an ERA below 2 for the third straight season. He isn't automatic, but he's pretty close.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.