Veteran reliever Jonathan Papelbon is drawing "strong interest" from multiple clubs and expects to make a decision on his next team within 24 hours, a source told ESPN Tuesday.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said Tuesday that he has reached out to Papelbon personally, an indication that the club is serious about bringing the reliever back to Boston but not as a closer. The Red Sox are seeking a steady eighth-inning setup man in the absence of Koji Uehara, who is sidelined indefinitely by a right pectoral strain.
The Chicago Cubs have also been mentioned as a potential Papelbon suitor.
Papelbon broke into the majors with Boston in 2005, recording 219 saves and making four American League All-Star Games in seven seasons with the Red Sox.
"There's no question he's a different pitcher now than nine years ago," Farrell said of Papelbon. "There's been a lot of saves recorded in between, a lot of pitches thrown. He's evolved as more of a 'pitcher' rather than relying solely on velocity and a fastball that he would attack with.
"Coming back into Boston, if that were to happen, he's very well-aware of the environment, the expectation. So we'll see where that goes."
Papelbon, 35, became a free agent Saturday when the Washington Nationals released him at his request. The Nationals removed him from the closer's role in late July when they acquired Mark Melancon from Pittsburgh in a trade, and the Nationals were reportedly planning to designate Papelbon for assignment when he asked for his release.
WEEI-FM in Boston was first to report that Papelbon was close to making a decision on his next team.
Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, Papelbon's former Boston teammate, praised him in an interview with ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers on Sunday and said Papelbon got a "bad rap" for his dugout confrontation with Washington teammate Bryce Harper last season.
"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."
Papelbon ranks ninth in MLB history with 368 career saves in 12 seasons with the Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and the Nationals. He was 2-4 with a 4.37 ERA and 19 saves in 37 appearances with Washington this season.
Because the Nationals released Papelbon, they're responsible for the roughly $3 million that remains of his $11 million salary for 2016.
ESPN Staff Writer Scott Lauber contributed to this report.