Jonathan Papelbon still owns the act — his slow turn and intense stare toward the plate.
But none of this renders Papelbon incapable of reforming back into a guy who can nail down ballgames.
The 33-year-old should hear a lot of the same word Roy Halladay heard.
When you think closer, you think fierce, intimidating and hard throwing. But closers don’t have to uncork jaw-dropping fastballs to be successful.
Trevor Hoffman, the game’s second all-time saves leader, underwent shoulder surgery after the 1995 season, and as a result, his velocity diminished.
So, he adapted.
Hoffman developed an all-world changeup and became dominant with an off-speed, location-based repertoire. From 2006-10, his final years as a big leaguer, Hoffman threw no harder than 87 mph, yet saved 165 games and posted a 1.83 ERA as an All-Star in 2009.
John Franco made a living the same way, racking up 424 saves (fourth all-time) with guile, not power.
Papelbon must now adjust. His slider and splitter become all that more important, with location now key and outsmarting the name of the game.
Papelbon no longer strikes fear into hitters. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be effective.