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Papelbon, bullpen shake off early struggles

Papelbon, bullpen shake off early struggles

PHILADELPHIA -- Jonathan Papelbon said a key for the Phillies bullpen is to learn from their failures.

The bullpen imploded Monday in a 9-6 loss to the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. B.J. Rosenberg became the first pitcher in at least 100 years to allow home runs to the only three batters he faced in a game, and Jake Diekman loaded the bases before serving up a game-winning grand slam to Dan Uggla in the ninth.

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"Don't forget about it, but learn from it," Papelbon said. "Learn from it, store it in the bank, put it away and when you need that deposit later in your career, bring it back out. That's the way we're going about it. That's the only way to go about it. That's what I'm trying to show these guys.

"Hey, I blew the first [save] of the season. We've got to bounce back. We've got a long way to go."

Diekman had been on a roll until Monday, allowing two hits, one walk and striking out seven in 4 1/3 scoreless innings in five appearances. He pitched the ninth Monday, because Papelbon had pitched in three consecutive days. It was Diekman's first time in a closing situation.

"It's still just another inning," Diekman said. "If you actually break it down, it's just another inning. Still attack the hitters. They're still going to get out seven out of 10 times, just like any other inning during the game. It's just that there's a little more pressure. But you take away that and it's exactly the same. I feel like that's the biggest thing."

Papelbon has thrown four scoreless innings in four appearances since he blew a save April 2 in Texas. He has allowed one hit, one walk and has struck out three.

He said April 5 in Chicago that he needed to pitch more than throw (i.e. blow his fastball past hitters), like he had in the past. It is necessary without the velocity Papelbon once had on his fastball.

"I think I'm starting to feel good," Papelbon said. "Starting to get off the blocks, you know? That's been key for me. Obviously, I think my delivery is a little bit more on time."

Papelbon also changed his intro music at Citizens Bank Park from Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" to Meek Mill's "Bout That Life," which features a speech at the beginning from professional wrestling legend Ric Flair. Papelbon has one of Flair's pink robes and a photo of a bloodied Flair hanging next to his locker. Both are autographed.

"I've been a Ric Flair guy," Papelbon said. "He came and met me and [Dustin] Pedroia in Boston. He gave us the robe, but the belt, Pedroia stole. I tried to get the belt back from him, but he won't, so I'm getting his WWE Big Gold champion belt. It's coming in. The real deal one. No [fake] one. Big Gold Belt."

And the new intro music?

"I heard it in Spring Training," Papelbon said. "Once I heard it, I knew it was it. I really don't care what comes up after it, either. I just like the beginning. It gets me going. That's all that matters."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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