The testing is
the backbone of the program. When Papelbon reports to work, he meets with
assistant trainer Mike Reinhold, who was the director of rehab and clinical
education at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham. Reinhold
examines Papelbon and estimates the fatigue level of his shoulder, then hooks
him up to a strength-testing machine that provides an objective measurement. A
report of the scores is logged along with Papelbon's recent usage patterns and
given to Francona and front-office officials.
pitching coach John Farrell reworked Papelbon's delivery and practice habits.
Farrell tightened up Papelbon's motion to eliminate any wasted side-to-side
movement, which had caused him to follow through toward first base and put
additional strain on his shoulder. "More like a Ferris wheel," Papelbon
says of his thrust toward home now, "and less like a carousel."
The Red Sox may
never know what Papelbon could do as a starter, which is fine with him. But
they will happily take their 60 innings from him every year.
So Papelbon will
stick with his program and with his ninth-inning routine, in which he steps off
the back of the mound after throwing his warmup pitches, bows his head and says
a prayer of thanks.
Thank you, God,
for giving me the ability to come out on this particular night. Thank you for
letting me come out on this mound in front of 40,000 people and get to do what
I love to do and use this ability that you gave me for something good in this
"Once I do
that," he says, "it's game time."
And at that very
moment, when he climbs back up on the mound, looking for another fight to win,
another ass to kick, Papelbon is exactly where he wants to be.