CINCINNATI - Jonathan Papelbon has long voiced his desire to pitch for a contender. That's why, he repeated on Monday, he signed the richest-ever contract for a relief pitcher in November 2011 to join the Phillies, then coming off a 102-win season and boasting a rotation headlined by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
On Monday afternoon he found himself in a room with 33 other National League all-stars, every one of them in a better team situation than the outspoken all-star closer for baseball's worst club. Two and a half weeks remain before baseball's July 31 trade deadline, and the seldom-used but still effective Papelbon seeks a resolution.
"It's time to you-know-what or get off the pot," he said, one of three times he used the phrase during a nearly 30-minute media session ahead of Tuesday's All-Star Game. "The Phillies have got to make a decision. You've got to go one way or the other.
"You can't be in limbo and sit here and say, 'What if we do this or what if we do that?' You've got to make a decision and you've got to go with it. I know that we've got a new [incoming] president [Andy MacPhail]. We've got a new interim manager [Pete Mackanin]. We've got all this change supposedly happening. But I don't see any of it yet."
Papelbon, the lone player representing the Phillies in Cincinnati, fielded dozens of questions Monday, most regarding his trade status. Reporters from Boston, Toronto, Chicago and Houston stopped by his podium to ask his take on joining the clubs they cover.
Papelbon, who last week said he would be surprised and disappointed if he wasn't traded before the deadline, said Monday if it were up to him, he "would've been gone a long time ago." He said he thought he would be dealt before the deadline last July. With the process dragging on, he admitted the thought has crossed his mind he might be stuck in Philadelphia beyond July 31.
"I can only do so much. If another team comes to the Phillies and they have an offer and the Phillies don't like it or don't want to accept it, I can't do anything about that," he said. "So I've only got so much power. This is not really on me a whole lot, you know? I wish it was. But it's just not."
For a team in need of an upgrade at closer, Papelbon would prove a valuable piece. Save opportunities for him have been few and far between with the Phillies, but the 34-year-old righthander has converted each of his 14 chances. Four of the six earned runs charged to him this season have come in non-save situations.
The sticking point in any potential Papelbon deal has long been his contract. Even after the trade deadline, he still will be owed a shade more than $4.5 million for the rest of the season. His $13 million option for next season vests with 19 more games finished, so his reaching that mark would be factored into any trade discussions.
The Phillies will have to eat some of his salary to consummate a deal. The more they subsidize, the better the potential return. Papelbon, who can block trades to 17 teams, won't go just anywhere, he said. He wants to go to a contender and, wherever he is pitching on Aug. 1, he wants it to be as that team's closer. The Blue Jays appear "a good fit," he noted. A reunion with the Red Sox has crossed his mind. But ultimately, much of it is out of his control.
"I signed up on a team that won 102 games and was expecting certain things," he said. "Now it didn't happen, and I've tried to ride that ship as much as I can. I've tried to keep my mouth shut as much as I can. But like I said earlier, it's time to you-know-what or get off the pot.
"I feel like three years is plenty enough time to ride it out, so to speak, and if fans can't understand that, then I can't really side with them on that."
Papelbon said this All-Star Game nod, his sixth, means more to him than most of the others because "it's been so much more of a grind for me this year." Whether traded or not, he said "the only consistent thing that's going to happen is every night I'm going to prepare to go out and compete. I'm going to do that regardless of where I'm at, even though if it still is in Philly, I won't be happy. But that's not going to affect the way I'm going to go out and prepare and compete.
"At that point, and this may sound selfish and it may not," he added, "but if I'm still with Philly, I'm going to go out there and play for myself and my own name and my own career and my own stats and all that. I'm not going to just throw it in. You know what I mean? I don't know. That's the way I'm going to do it."