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Jonathan Papelbon earns save at right time -- and right place

CHICAGO -- Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels was nowhere to be found before Friday's series opener against the Chicago Cubs. The first chance he'll have to discuss the possibility of being traded to Chicago will have to come after his start Saturday at Wrigley Field.

On the other hand, reliever Jonathan Papelbon has no issue talking about leaving Philadelphia. The Cubs could still be a suitor after Papelbon earned the save Friday, after Jason Motte gave up a ninth-inning 3-2 lead before Rafael Soriano lost it in the 10th.

"If someone had the opportunity to come here and play and win a championship, it would be as big as winning in Boston," Papelbon said of the Cubs before earning his 17th save in 17 tries this season.

Papelbon is in wait-and-see mode, as the Phillies have about a week to start their anticipated rebuilding plan. His 1.63 ERA and 0.98 WHIP should be attractive to many teams, though he'll be owed $13 million for next season if he finishes 14 more games this year.

He's just waiting for the fire sale to begin.

"It's been public ever since they came out and said we were going to rebuild," Papelbon said. "They said that before the season even started.

"[I'm] just waiting for that to start happening. We've got how many days 'til it happens? We'll see."

The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31, and though the Cubs' bullpen is good, it would be even better with the addition of Papelbon, especially given the way he is throwing this season. He hasn't lost focus, despite a completely dysfunctional, losing situation in Philadelphia.

"He's a little peculiar, as we all know, but at the same time, when he goes out on the mound, he does his job," interim Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He gives it 100 percent. He's a fierce competitor."

The part about being "peculiar" is important when importing a player into a pennant race on a young team, but the Cubs organization is familiar with Papelbon, as he spent seven years in Boston with Cubs president Theo Epstein. Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and Papelbon were presumably reminiscing about old times during batting practice Friday. Could a reunion be in order?

"They're very smart baseball managers, but they're also very understanding of the game and what it takes inside a clubhouse, the types of player they need to succeed," Papelbon said.

That notion is one you hear often from former Boston Red Sox players. The Cubs management is good with not only baseball numbers but also what it takes inside a locker room. They value character as much as talent. Papelbon might be strange, but one thing known for sure is his passion for winning. He was on the mound when the Red Sox clinched the 2007 World Series.

"It's the only thing I play for," he said. "I have an addiction for being great and a fear of failure unlike any other."

If Friday meant anything, Papelbon could not have asked for a better situation. The Cubs blew a save, while he earned one. Could he be doing that in Chicago soon?

"It will be fun on any contending team," he said. "Chicago would be a fun place to win."