Papelbon in Full Control

Jeremy Papelbon

Pardon Cubs pitching prospect Jeremy Papelbon for feeling as though he has a stranglehold on the Midwest League.

Most all year long, particularly since the Midwest League All-Star break, the left-hander has been on quite a roll. The younger brother of Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon is putting up some solid numbers himself.

Since the All-Star break, Papelbon has pitched 14.1 innings of relief work while only surrendering one run. His ERA after the break is a miniscule 0.64 while his opponents batting average isn't much higher at .163.

Overall this season, Papelbon has a 2.43 ERA in 27 games from the bullpen at Class-A Peoria. Since May 16, he has allowed just two earned runs.

"I feel like I've got this league under control and I feel I'm dominating it," Papelbon said from Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, Ill., prior to a game against the Kane County Cougars this past week.

"I've been using my split and forkball a lot, and I've been able to get a lot of ground ball outs because of it. They're becoming my go-to pitches."

Recently, the Cubs have had some discussions regarding exactly what they want to do with the development of the 24-year-old Papelbon.

Although Papelbon has been used exclusively from the bullpen this season, the Cubs' 19th-round pick in the 2006 draft has some experience as a starter stemming from his college days at the University of North Florida.

Papelbon has had much success in relief thus far, but there is still a possibility he will end up in the starting rotation somewhere down the line.

"There were talks about me starting when Juan Mateo leaves here for the end of the season," Papelbon stated. "But as long as I'm putting up zeros, it doesn't matter where or when I pitch."

Some pitchers preach that there is a distinct difference in the mentality of a reliever versus that of a starter.

Papelbon contends the biggest difference is just the prep work in between.

"I've been going three innings in relief, so if I'm starting, it's only 12 more outs to go for me to get to seven innings, which is where a starter wants to get to," Papelbon said.

"It's just different work in between. If I'm starting, then I'll have a heavier load in between games because I need to be able to last longer."

While older brother Jonathan regularly tops out in the upper 90's with his fastball, Jeremy Papelbon is more of a finesse pitcher. He uses a slider and splitfinger as well as a mid-80's fastball to get batters out.

"If I put my splitfinger on the outside corner, it drops and I get a lot of strike outs and ground balls with that," Papelbon said of his self proclaimed "go-to" pitch. "The way hitters swing at my fastball makes me appear to be a power guy. But it's just my mechanics and location that gets them out, not power."

Papelbon has had success at the Class-A level, but it could be awhile before he gets moved up anywhere.

The Cubs' Advanced-A team in Daytona is not short on pitchers and there doesn't appear to be a slot opening up in the near future.

"I don't see myself going up anytime soon because they have their roster full at Daytona," Papelbon agreed. "But if there is a spot opening up, I'm not scared at all to move up."

Because Papelbon expects to remain in Peoria for the time being, and since he doesn't hang around with his brothers very much these days, he and Peoria relievers are involved in some brotherly like competition of their own.

"I live with Jayson Ruhlman, so there's always a lot of competition between me and him," Papelbon said with a chuckle. "We're always telling each other how good we're doing to keep motivating each other."

Papelbon describes Peoria as a way to get his feet wet. Considering his lineage in addition to how well he's been doing since he was drafted, his feet could be soaked by the time he leaves baseball.

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