CLEARWATER, Fla. - Jonathan Papelbon took the mound Saturday and consistently registered 93 m.p.h. with his fastball. Coincidentally, his 2015 Grapefruit League debut came against a club that might need a closer.
"Huh, interesting," the Phillies closer said.
That was Papelbon's catchphrase of the afternoon. The notion of the Toronto Blue Jays as a potential suitor in a future trade did not get his juices flowing, Papelbon said.
His average fastball velocity last season was 91.2, according to FanGraphs' PITCHf/x data.
"Huh, interesting," he said when told the Bright House Field scoreboard flashed 93.
"My quote is, 'Huh, interesting.' H-u-h."
Since it's spring training, Papelbon pitched the sixth inning of the Phillies' 4-2 loss. The lone blemish on the 34-year-old righthander's pitching line came via a leadoff single from Russell Martin. Papelbon struck out Danny Valencia swinging and Justin Smoak looking.
"I thought he threw well," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He just looks like he's real strong from working out over the winter and having a fresh year and a fresh start."
Papelbon said he feels stronger after bulking up a bit in the offseason, though he said he's not sure how much weight he added to his 6-foot-4 frame. He would like to pitch roughly eight outings this spring, he said, adding it "depends on how the old carcass feels."
He is owed $13 million this season. His contract features a $13 million option for next season that triggers if he finishes 48 games. If the Phillies wish to deal Papelbon, they will have to eat a considerable portion of his salary.
Asked whether this spring has a different feel, Papelbon said only because he feels "like we've got a pretty good vibe going in this clubhouse, the best vibe I've seen since I've been here. That's exciting. A little bit of a different feel. That's the only thing I feel different."
Isn't that odd considering the front office has stated it doesn't expect to contend this season?
"Yeah, I find that odd," Papelbon said. "I feel like we're going to contend. I mean there's no doubt about that. I don't think anybody in this clubhouse, especially the veterans, don't think we're going to contend.