BY KEVIN CONNELL (@_KevinConnell)
A day after his release, former Nationals reliever Jonathan Papelbon already had a former teammate endorsing him to their team.
According to ESPN.com, Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester seemed to hint that his team should sign the embattled pitcher if interested when paying compliment to him Sunday.
“He is crazy,” Lester said with a smile. “But he’s no crazier than the rest of us. He just gets a bad rap for what happened in the dugout. Knowing Papelbon, I’ve always had good things to say about him as a teammate, how he respects the game and how he goes about his business.”
In his two seasons with the Nationals, Papelbon had at least one particular run-in with a teammate. In the incident, which Lester mentioned, Papelbon choked star right fielder Bryce Harper during an altercation in the dugout last September.
“People are quick to jump to the conclusions based on one event,” Lester said. “I think he’s a great teammate. Like I said, I don’t think he’s any crazier that the rest of us. I think he still has a lot to give.
“I don’t have anything but good things to say about him as a clubhouse presence, a clubhouse personality, a closer, a pitcher, a teammate -- all the above,” Lester said. “I respect the way he goes about things. One thing you always know is he’ll always take the ball, and he’ll always have your back. As a teammate, that’s all you can ask for.”
Lester, now in his second season with the Cubs, was Papelbon’s teammate with the Boston Red Sox for six seasons from 2006-11.
Papelbon, 35, was released by the Nationals on Saturday at his own request. The former All-Star has 19 saves in 22 opportunities and a career-worst 4.37 ERA this season.