NEW YORK -- Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon spoke Tuesday as if he thinks he's got a chance to pitch in a save situation in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's All-Star Game, and maybe he will.
One of the best storylines here this week is the chance for Rivera to collect a save in Tuesday's All-Star Game, possibly the final big-stage event in Yankee Stadium history.
C'mon, Jonathan, do you think AL manager Terry Francona would get out of New York alive if he opted for you instead of Rivera, given the time and place?
"You're starting to scare me with that question," Papelbon quipped Monday. "Is the mob involved in this?
"There are so many different routes you can go with this. So many different scenarios. It's just not that easy. It's not. You have to understand what major-league baseball is about, what the game is about. You've got to understand how players pay their dues.
"I don't know, man."
Everything Papelbon said, including admitting that he's still in the dues-paying stage, spoke toward Rivera getting the ninth-inning nod.
Francona declined Tuesday to state his ninth inning plans on the grounds that "out of the spirit of the game, competition, having a little bit of fun, we're not going to announce the rest of our rotation yet."
To which, NL manager Clint Hurdle countered, "I'm going to stick my neck out there and say we'll prepare for (Rivera) a little bit, watch a little video."
Rivera talked Tuesday like a man planning on pitching the ninth.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I'm looking forward to doing it one more time (on a big stage in Yankee Stadium), yes."
This AL squad is deep in closers. Los Angeles' Francisco Rodriguez, who leads the league with 38 saves, is here. So are Papelbon and Baltimore's George Sherrill, tied for second at 28 saves. And Minnesota's Joe Nathan, fourth at 27; Kansas City's Joakim Soria, fifth at 25; and Rivera, sixth at 23.
"If this is one of my dues, it's one of my dues," Papelbon said. "If I was the manager and I had to make the decision, I'd be closing.
"If I said I'd get Mariano Rivera to do it, that's not the competitive nature of Jonathan Papelbon."
However, he also said he'd understand if Francona told him he was going to go with Rivera.
"I think it would be bullheaded of me and selfish of me not to understand it," he said.
Papelbon said he "honestly" doesn't think Francona has made up his mind yet, though that seems awfully difficult to believe. Francona is big on respecting the game, and it's difficult to see him electing to go with anybody but Rivera if it comes down to it.
Not in this ballpark.
It's the main reason why Nathan doesn't expect to get the ball in the ninth.
"We've got a lot of good guys who can close," Nathan said. "I think Mariano is definitely going to do it. You've got to throw him in there."
How does Nathan rate his own chances at getting the ball in the ninth inning?
"I'd say slim to none, with that guy around," he said, chuckling.