Papelbon returns from suspension, maintains innocence

Papelbon returns from suspension, maintains innocence

MIAMI -- Jonathan Papelbon said he is looking forward to his return to Citizens Bank Park.

He pitched Wednesday for the first time since Major League Baseball suspended him seven games for grabbing his crotch in a perceived gesture toward Phillies fans. He maintained his innocence after the 2-1 victory over Miami, saying if he really wanted to let booing Phillies fans know he was upset with them, he really could have let them know.

"It's been rough, it's been bad," Papelbon said about the suspension. "I've just had to really try -- I don't know how to say this but -- I've just had to try to put [umpire] Joe West in the back of my mind and carry on even though I feel like I got the raw end of the deal."

West ejected Papelbon from a Sept. 14 game against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Papelbon had just blown a save when he rather aggressively adjusted himself before he entered the Phillies' dugout. West ejected him at that point. The two argued and made contact with one another on the field, with West grabbing Papelbon by his jersey and pushing him away.

MLB suspended West one game without pay for his actions.

The Phillies finish their series against the Marlins at Marlins Park on Thursday before returning to Philadelphia for the final series of the season beginning Friday against Atlanta. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Ryne Sandberg said Papelbon is their closer, inferring he will pitch in a save situation this weekend if it presents itself.

"Do I wonder about that?" Papelbon said about the fan reaction. "Do you think I wonder, or do you think I know exactly what it's going to be like?"

He knows exactly, doesn't he?

"That's right," Papelbon said.

Is he looking forward to it?

"Yes, I'm looking forward to it," Papelbon said. "I wouldn't say bathing in the boos. I'm looking forward to getting back there and pitching there. I enjoy pitching there, I really do. I don't let the boos get to me. They don't bother me. Like I said, I don't hear them. For me, I like pitching in that kind of environment. Whether the fans are booing or cheering, that don't make no difference to me."

Of course, the league and the Phillies thought Papelbon let the boos get to him, which was why he grabbed himself and why he got suspended. The Phillies said they fully supported the suspension and apologized to fans.

"I did it because I needed a readjustment," Papelbon said. "I truly feel like if the fans really got to me and they wanted something, I would have given them a little bit more than that. Everyone has their right to an opinion and what they think. I said what I said and it's the truth and I'm not going to waver from that.

"Like I said earlier, if I really, really wanted to do something back it would have been more than just a little 'umph' with the pants, you know what I mean? People are going to take it for what they want, you know what I mean?"

Papelbon said he did not appeal the suspension because it would have lingered into next season.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.