VIERA, FL. — The Nationals bringing back Jonathan Papelbon for the 2016 season may have surprised some, but that does not appear the case for the players on the team. Everyone who has spoken about the fight between Papelbon and Bryce Harper, and the fallout that ensued, has categorized it as no big deal. Papelbon is back and they seem just fine with that.
It is evident in their comments and in observing their interactions with him in the clubhouse. It's only February, but Papelbon appears to be relatively popular. He has made a habit of posting Photoshop pictures around the locker room and joking with his teammates.
His locker is right next to Gio Gonzalez, who showed up to spring training with hair down to his shoulders. Papelbon posted a picture of Aladdin with the caption 'you know you need to cut your hair when you start looking like a Disney character.'
Gio and Papelbon, in particular, seem to have become very good friends. They are lockermates, throwing partners and Papelbon has been seen on the field giving Gio tips during fielding practice drills.
Gonzalez likes Papelbon and believes he is not alone in the clubhouse in appreciating his personality.
"I love Pap. I think what I love about him is that he's just not afraid to speak his mind and those are the people that you cherish the most because you appreciate what he's saying. He's not going to lie to you, he's not going to tell you something that you want to hear. He's going to tell you the truth and that's what you love about the guy. Where I grew up, telling somebody straight up what it is is something you appreciate. It's someone that actually cares for you. It's the people that say it behind your back that are the ones you gotta worry about," he said.
"That's what I love about him. He'll tell you how he feels and without any intentions of hurting you. He wants to help you and I think that's what he's been doing with me as my throwing partner, as my lockermate. He's been showing me that you can have fun in this game without taking it seriously or taking it personal. I think that's his presence. I love that he's in our locker room. He's going to be our closer and definitely save our butts a lot this year."
Again, it's early, but clearly Gonzalez believes Papelbon will not be a problem for the Nats this year.