It was strange to see Roy Halladay getting handshakes and high-fives after eight innings.
It’s an unwritten rule that the Phillies’ ace always finishes what he starts, even with 92 pitches already out of the holster.
That was before the arrival of Cinco Ocho. The Phils spent $50 million for lights-out closer Jonathan Papelbon and skipper Charlie Manuel isn’t about to watch him sit in the bullpen twiddling his thumbs in a one-run game. So, with the Phillies up 1-0 on the Pirates heading into the ninth, he instructed Halladay that his day was done and immediately motioned for Papelbon.
“Of course,” Manuel said, when asked if having Papelbon made the decision easy. “No doubt.”
Halladay, who usually fights tooth and nail to stay in games, didn’t flinch.
“It happened the way we wanted. We got Papelbon in there to finish it,” Halladay said.
“He never wants to come out of games, but he’s very professional about it,” Manuel said. “[Pitching coach] Rich [Dubee] and I knew exactly where he had been before with his workload and the next time he goes out there, we’ll get him 100 [pitches].”
Papelbon lives on adrenaline, like a real-life Ricky Vaughn, only without the awkward glasses and questionable control. When the bullpen phone rang Thursday, he sprang into action like a superhero.
“When that call happens, you kind of throw everything out the window and go compete, that’s really it,” said Papelbon, who morphs into his alter ego, Cinco Ocho, in save situations.
“Did you see him?,” said Papelbon, referring to Cinco Ocho. “He was out there.”
And Cinco Ocho never wondered if or when that call was coming. He never does.
“I stay within myself. I stay within my routine. And whatever Charlie [Manuel] wants to do is up to his discretion,” Papelbon said. “I wasn’t there thinking about if I was going in. I was just waiting for the phone to ring and, if it’s me, I do what I do.”
What he does is close — no, make that slam — the door shut. Papelbon needed only 10 pitches — all fastballs — to record his first save in a Phillies uniform. Even though Papelbon’s 396 other saves all came in a Boston Red Sox uniform, he didn’t feel the least bit weird or different about his latest one.
“To be honest, I felt the same way that I did the past seven seasons in Boston and there was really no real difference. I enjoy all my saves just as much,” Papelbon said. “I turned that page [on Boston] a long time ago. I finished reading that book before the year started.”
But Papelbon did admit that finishing it off for a guy like Halladay gave this one a little extra juice.
“It’s going to be fun for me,” he said. “That’s the reason why I came here, and I think we can feed off that.”