Boston's hard-throwing closer needed 39 pitches to close out a riveting, 5-4 win for the Red Sox, which meant he will get at least one day of rest before pitching again.
It was a tradeoff manager Terry Francona was more than happy to take.
"Not having him and winning [the day before] is better than not having him and losing. That was getting a little hairy at the end there," said Francona.
While Francona has never wavered in protecting Papelbon ever since the righty had shoulder issues late in the 2006 season, the task has become even easier this season with the addition of Takashi Saito.
In three seasons as the closer for the Dodgers, Saito converted 81 saves and posted a 1.95 ERA.
The only question with Saito is health. Because of his elbow problems last year, the Dodgers non-tendered him, creating an opportunity for the Red Sox to sign one of the most talented relievers in the game at a discount rate.
"We haven't used him back-to-back [days]," Francona said. "That's really the only thing we haven't done. It's still early. We really think we've got a good reliever. We'll keep an eye on him."
Depending on how the matchups played out, Francona also said that Hideki Okajima would be a closing option for Sunday.
Saito came in with rest, having pitched just once in the first five games.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.