Papelbon returns from illness, pitches rocky ninth

Papelbon returns from illness, pitches rocky ninth

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon did not pitch as scheduled during Thursday's loss to the Astros after being sent home early with an illness, but he returned for Friday's 9-5 win over the Mets.

With the Nats up, 9-1, Papelbon came in for the ninth and gave up four runs (three earned) on two hits and three walks, and he was removed from the game because his pitch count was too high. He was relieved by Tyler Mapes for the final out.

Manager Dusty Baker attributed Papelbon's struggles to an after-effect of the illness and the fact that Friday was only his second Grapefruit League outing. Papelbon also missed a few days earlier this spring for a family emergency.

"We didn't even think he was supposed to pitch today, but Pap wants to take the ball," Baker said.

Papelbon was sent home Thursday as a precaution; several players throughout the Nationals' clubhouse have fallen ill with a bug this spring. Right-hander Erik Davis was the latest player it affected, and he was held out of Friday's game and sent home early. Baker said the players have usually felt better after a day of rest, including Papelbon, who returned to Nationals camp Friday morning feeling fine.

"He's back to being Papelbon today," Baker said.

• Right-hander Matt Belisle, who has been dealing with a calf injury this spring, threw in a Minor League game on Thursday. He has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game because of the injury.

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.