By The Associated Press
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, a former Mississippi State standout, feels his team lacked leadership last season, and made it known to reporters on Friday.
On the day that the Phillies began exhibition play with an intrasquad scrimmage here, Papelbon, who left the Boston Red Sox for Philadelphia in time for last season, reiterated his stance from earlier in the week that says: “Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen any leadership.”
Papelbon says he didn’t say anything that’s not accurate, especially considering the 2012 Phillies were coming off a 102-win season in 2011.
“It was an all-around leadership void from A to Z,” Papelbon said. “From being a vocal leader to being an off-the-field leader to being an on-the-field leader to everything. You can’t just point your finger at what type of leadership was missing. It was the whole part of the equation. Our team identity is formed by that leadership.”
Last season, after a decorated career in Boston, Papelbon saved 38 games for the Phillies, and finished 5-6 with a 2.44 ERA and 92 strikeouts. Philadelphia, though, finished 81-81, 17 games behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East.
Papelbon’s words were somewhat surprising given the abundance of veterans and All-Stars in the Phillies clubhouse. A former All-Star himself, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with Philadelphia, he joined a team that included the likes of Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay, among others.
Howard and Utley missed time last season with injuries, and Halladay also sat out close to two months.
“(There were) a lot of moving parts,” Rollins said. “A lot of new parts coming in. Regulars not being around together — those bonds that forms when everybody’s together. We didn’t have that unfortunately.”
The result of the missing pieces and moving parts? Well, the Phillies finished with a non-winning record for the first time in a decade and saw their five-year reign atop the division come to an end.
“(Papelbon) came over here, we had just won 102 games,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He thought we were going to hit homers. He thought we were going to pitch shutouts and be in close games. He might have been a little bit disappointed in what he saw because we had injuries and did not play well. That’s what he was talking about.”
Papelbon said he saw a change at the end of the season. Not surprisingly, it came when Howard, Utley and Halladay all returned from the disabled list. That showed in the standings, too. The Phillies went 35-24 after July 31.
“I love this group of guys,” Papelbon said. “The way we came together the last month of the season was an awesome sight to see. I think if we can take that into the season we’ll be great.”
NOTES: In a five-inning intrasquad game, Utley played in his first spring game since 2010. He struck out and walked in two plate appearances. Utley, who has battled chronic knee pain in each of the last two years, will start at second base again Saturday vs. Houston. He is expected to get Sunday off. … Left-handed pitcher prospect Adam Morgan threw two shutout innings. He allowed two hits and struck out two. “I’m just taking it as … I’m playing for over a month with the best players in the world,” Morgan, 22, said. “I hold myself to a high standard to go out there and I really believe I can compete with these guys.” . Howard struck out and singled in two at-bats. He is expected to play in each of the first two exhibition games this weekend. … OFs Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown, who are both competing for jobs this spring, each went 2 for 2.