FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -Jonathan Papelbon wants a new contract before Thursday, when the Red Sox plan to renew contracts of any unsigned players. He doesn't have any leverage.
Because he didn't have enough major league service time to be eligible for arbitration, the team can decide on his 2008 salary After this season, the star closer will be eligible for arbitration.
``I'm at the mercy of the club right now to a certain extent,'' Papelbon said Tuesday after pitching a perfect inning in Boston's 5-3 exhibition win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. ``It's just a matter of ironing out the numbers. We haven't ironed them out yet and, hopefully, we can get to a mutual agreement. I don't want to renew. I don't want to. But if I have to, I have to.''
He'd prefer to reach an agreement with the team on a one-year contract or a multiyear deal. But he doesn't think a long-term contract can be reached before this season.
The Red Sox have a long-standing policy of not commenting on negotiations.
Last year, Papelbon was paid $425,500. He finished the season with 37 saves in 40 opportunities and a 1.85 ERA. He struck out the last batter of the World Series in Boston's sweep of Colorado, earning his third save in the four games.
Mariano Rivera, the dominant closer for the New York Yankees, signed a three-year, $45 million after last season, his 13th.
Papelbon's 37 saves were tied for sixth in the AL. He wants to establish a salary standard for future outstanding closers.
``I feel a certain obligation not only to myself and my family to make the money that I deserve but for the game of baseball.'' Papelbon said. ``Mariano Rivera has been doing it for the past 10 years and with me coming up behind him I feel a certain obligation to do the same.''
He said his contract situation wasn't a distraction and he actually is more focused this spring training than he was a year ago when he moved into the rotation only to return to his closer's role before the season.
Papelbon is working on a slider to go with his two outstanding pitches, a fastball and a splitter.
``I feel like it's coming along well,'' he said. ``I feel like I can go out there and start the season and be a three-pitch closer.''
Manager Terry Francona doesn't expect to see the slider much, not with Papelbon pitching so well with his other pitches.
``I think sometimes there are certain hitters that he wants to have that pitch for and I don't think you can just make it up in the middle of the season,'' Francona said. ``He needs to have the ability to have confidence in it.
``But you're not going to see Pap change his style a whole lot.''
Chances are, there won't be much change in his salary either, at least until he qualifies for arbitration after the season.
``It's a tough situation for me right now,'' Papelbon said. ``I feel like with me being at the top of my position, I feel like that (salary) standard needs to be set and I'm the one to set that standard and I don't think that the Red Sox are really necessarily seeing eye to eye with me on that subject right now.''
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