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Boston's bullpen worries run deep after latest Papelbon collapse

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The perfect wave Jonathan Papelbon(notes) had been riding against the Toronto Blue Jays was bound to crash. Now perhaps his time as closer for the Boston Red Sox should end as well.

Ending a flawless run against the Jays on Thursday afternoon, Papelbon blew his sixth save of the season in Toronto's 6-5 victory at SkyDome the Rogers Centre.

Coming in 24-for-24 in save opportunities against Toronto over his career, Papelbon allowed three runs and four hits after inheriting a 5-3 lead in the ninth.

Glorious, if you're a Jays fan.

Infuriating and demoralizing, if you like the Red Sox. They missed a chance to sweep and keep pace (or gain) on a playoff spot.

And this loss hangs on Papelbon. Mariano Rivera(notes), for the sake of comparison, has blown six total saves since 2008. Clearly, Boston's best man for the save is young Daniel Bard(notes), but manager Terry Francona does not make decisions in a vacuum. Switching closers wouldn't be easy on Pap's ego — not a small consideration, because Boston would need him to get outs in the seventh and eighth.

And even if the Red Sox fix their ninth innings, that doesn't make their other problems go away.

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As Marc Normandin at Red Sox Beacon points out, Boston has no bullpen depth. Bard is an elite reliever and Papelbon — despite his blown saves, weakening control and strikeout rate — is still better than many relievers.

But it's the rest of Boston's bullpen that probably keeps Francona awake at night (if Papelbon already doesn't).

From Red Sox Beacon:

"Manny Delcarmen has looked better of late, but he was no better than replacement level prior to that. Felix Doubront(notes) (though that's in a small sample), Michael Bowden(notes), Scott Schoeneweis(notes), Fernando Cabrera(notes), and the worst offender of them all, Hideki Okajima(notes), have all been worse than replacement level. This means that you could pull a random pitcher from Pawtucket or the waiver wire and they would more than likely pitcher better than any of the above."

Injuries, age and underperformance throughout the roster killed the Red Sox in the first half and put them in a big hole in the AL East. They've shown a lot of spunk trying to dig out.

But even if an agreeable scenario gets worked out with Papelbon, it's not like Bard can pitch two innings every game, or even every other game.

The Red Sox just don't appear to have enough horses, especially in middle relief, to finish ahead of the Yankees or Rays.

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Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave

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