Papelbon headed back to Red Sox bullpen

Associated Press • Mar 23, 2007 at 12:06 PM

Jonathan Papelbon should be able to sleep again now that he's going back to closing games for the Red Sox. Rafael Furcal, Joe Mauer and Chone Figgins were also relieved Thursday because their injuries did not appear serious.

Papelbon is heading back to Boston's bullpen to fill a major void. But he said the move has nothing to do with the fact that Mike Timlin's injury left the Red Sox in dire need of late-inning relief.

"I haven't been sleeping well because there's been that feeling deep down in my heart that I wanted to close," Papelbon said after the Red Sox and Phillies tied 4-4 in 10 innings.

Papelbon is coming off a sensational rookie season in which he had 35 saves and a 0.92 ERA. But he was shut down with a month to go because of shoulder problems, and the Red Sox had planned to use him in the starting rotation to keep him on a more regular schedule and ease the stress on his arm.

Papelbon decided to tell manager Terry Francona how he felt about returning to his closer's role earlier this week after consulting with his family and speaking to catcher Jason Varitek.

"He's unique," Francona said in Clearwater, Fla. "He's at the top of the list of relievers in baseball. He impacts the game like no other. I'm thrilled we have a young guy that feels enthusiastic about doing a job."

At Vero Beach, Fla., Furcal sprained his left ankle when he collided with Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Jason Repko after catching a fly ball in short center field, but doesn't figure to miss much playing time.

Mauer, last season's AL batting champion, has a stress reaction in his left leg, and the Twins' catcher will sit out a few days for treatment.

At Tempe, Ariz., the Angels said Figgins will be sidelined indefinitely after fracturing the middle finger on his throwing hand. He still hopes to be ready by opening day.

At Jupiter, Fla., just hours after his arrest on a drunken driving charge, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa got a show of support from fans watching his team play the Marlins.

At Sarasota, Fla., Bobby Abreu played outfield for the first time in spring training and hit a three-run homer for the Yankees.

At Kissimmee, Fla., Chipper Jones played after being held out for almost a week with a sore muscle in his right side. The Braves slugger went 1-for-3 with an RBI double.

At Scottsdale, Ariz., NL Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb limited the Giants to four hits in six innings. He struck out three.

At Dunedin, Fla., Toronto ace Roy Halladay had a so-so outing in his next-to-last spring start, allowing three runs over six innings.

At Peoria, Ariz., Mark Prior had his best outing of the spring, allowing one run in four innings for the Cubs. Greg Maddux tossed five shutout innings for the Padres.

At Tucson, Ariz., White Sox slugger Jim Thome hit a two-run drive for his fourth homer of the spring.

At Lakeland, Fla., Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman yielded two runs and four hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked three.

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