Younger Papelbon aims to beat odds

Younger Papelbon aims to beat odds

NEW YORK -- In a way, it couldn't be more fitting that Josh Papelbon was taken at pick No. 1,443 (and round 48) in the First-Year Player Draft by the Red Sox on Wednesday.

For that draft slot alone is enough to make Jonathan Papelbon's brother an underdog before he throws his first pitch at the pro level.

The three Papelbons -- Jonathan and younger twins Josh and Jeremy (taken by the Cubs in Round 19) -- have been joined at the hip over the years. They have pursued their dreams as one, spurring each other on with competitive spirit.

Jonathan knows one thing about Josh that scouting reports and draft boards don't show.

"Out of the three of us brothers, he's always been the hardest worker out of all of us," Jonathan Papelbon said before Thursday's game against the Yankees. "Nothing has really come easy to him, so he's always worked harder than both of us. The thing he's got going for him is he's a competitor, man. It doesn't matter who is up there, it doesn't matter who he's playing against, he thinks he can beat anybody."

So now Josh Papelbon will go about his quest of beating the odds. Players drafted with just two rounds to spare in a 50-round draft aren't usually destined for success at the Major League level.

But maybe Josh Papelbon, a submarine-style right-handed reliever, is different.

As the draft was getting later and later, the junior from the University of North Florida started wondering if he'd be back for his senior season, with the carrot being a promise from coach Dusty Rhodes that he could start.

"Oh, man, it's amazing," said Josh Papelbon. "Towards the end, I started biting my nails, because I didn't really think it was going to happen. I'd already had plans to go to Alaska and play in a summer league. My coach had talked to me and said, 'If you don't get drafted, come back and start.' I was kind of looking forward to that, too, so I had two things."

But the thing that wound up happening was unquestionably more desirable. He is now in the same organization as his brother, who is having a phenomenal rookie season just three years after he was drafted by the Sox.

"I was just thinking about this today when I was working out and throwing," said Josh Papelbon. "I was thinking, 'That's going to be really cool whenever I make it, I get my first inning under my belt, my first out or whatever, and I'm coming off the field and Jonathan is congratulating me,' because I'm always used to Jeremy, my twin brother, congratulating me and me congratulating him."

Jonathan Papelbon couldn't have been any happier to see both brothers get drafted on the same day. Jeremy is a left-handed starter who played college ball with Josh.

"I think he's the first left-hander the Cubs took in the draft," Jonathan Papelbon said. "That's a great opportunity for him. He's got a lot of potential. He throws three, four pitches, all for strikes. He can go out there and knows how to compete. We all compete real well when we're out on the baseball field. We've all grown up together. We've just competed like ... whoever can finish their meal first gets seconds. That's just how it was. That's all we know. It's in our blood. It's instilled in us."

The Papelbon brothers have shared a clear bond in their climb to professional baseball.

"It's been great, especially because every offseason, all three of us have worked out together," Josh Papelbon said. "We've made leaps and bounds in our talent and how we approach the game and how we can get better and things like that. All three of us have helped each other out."

When Josh Papelbon was playing in a college wooden bat league in Lowell, Mass., last year, Jonathan set up a meeting for his brother to talk to another submariner: Chad Bradford, who was with the Red Sox at the time.

"I was able to get Chad to kind of sit down and talk shop with Josh," said Jonathan. "That was kind of a real big eye opener for him -- he got to sit down and talk to him and see how it is."

Expect Jonathan Papelbon to be a somewhat frequent presence at Minor League Spring Training in Fort Myers next February.

"Obviously, I can help him out with little things here and little things there and help him feel a lot more comfortable in the environment, because I know how it was. There's so many things going on and so many people in Spring Training, and this and that," Jonathan said.

"I'll be able to show him the ropes and give him pointers here and there and actually let him know how it works and how you're going to have to go out there and work your butt off to do what you have to do. He knows that. We talk a lot. There shouldn't be any surprises for him."

And if Josh Papelbon does realize his dream of pitching alongside big brother amid the backdrop of Fenway Park, nobody will be less surprised than Jonathan Papelbon.

"He just wanted a chance to play ball, and I guess the Red Sox were willing and able to give him that chance," said Jonathan Papelbon. "He'll do good. He can compete with anybody."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.