Beau Vaughan and Jon Papelbon have a lot in common. Each is a 23-year-old right hander taken by the Red Sox in the 2003 draft -- Vaughan in the 3rd round out of Arizona State, Papelbon in the 4th out of Mississippi State. Stocky, 6-4 230 lb. power-pitchers, both are one-time relievers now dominating opposing hitters in a starting role. Free Preview of Premium Content
Vaughan is 7-2, 2.82 at Low-A Augusta after missing the first two months of the season with a shoulder ailment; Papelbon is 10-5, 3.01 with a league-leading 129 strikeouts at High-A Sarasota. And while each takes a bulldog approach to the mound, off the field is another story.
"Along with being good competitors," said Farm Director Ben Cherington, "each is what could be called a different personality."
Those personalities came out last season when they were teammates at short-season Lowell. In a pre-game attraction, Papelbon won a cow-milking contest, much to the delight of his teammates -- especially Vaughan.
"He handled it like a champ," said Vaughan, "and was probably the only guy on the team with the courage to do something so outrageous. I told him he looked almost a little too good."
Papelbon, who refers to Vaughan as "a jokester," took a lot of ribbing for his exploits, but did so with a smile.
"Having never milked a cow before," he explained, "I had to ask what to do. They told me: "Just yank on them!" Hey, I love to work hard, but you can't be serious all the time -- especially in baseball -- so it was a lot of fun.
Life is more than just fun-and-games for the two emerging prospects.
"Off the field Jon is a free-spirit," explains Vaughan, "but he turns on a switch and gets serious when it's time to work."
"We became workout partners last year and pushed each other," said Papelbon. "Some days I'd push him, others he'd push me. I've always prided myself in my work ethic. If you have the same talent as someone you can always work harder than they do -- that's your edge."
Each has the talent to back up their hard work, and their similarities on the mound are striking. Both come right after hitters with a plus fastball and quality breaking pitches -- notably an effective change-up.
"Vaughn has a heavy sinking fastball," said Cherington, "along with a quality curveball and slider -- both with late action. Importantly, he understands how to use both. He also has a good feel for his change-up and has gotten numerous swings-and-misses on this pitch."
"Papelbon has a plus fastball with good command and the ability to pitch to all four quadrants of the zone," adds Cherington. "He has good feel for a change-up and a developing breaking ball."
They also share a love of the game and an appreciation of what baseball means to Red Sox Nation.
"I'm happy to be in an organization with such an amazing fan-base," said Vaughan. "Players love playing for fans. If we weren't playing we'd have the seat next to yours."
"I don't want to play for a team where the fans don't care if you win or lose," adds Papelbon. "I want be in a place where they lose sleep over it. Boston is like that."
Right now they're the hottest pitchers in the system, and they're enjoying every minute of it -- including the work.
"Baseball needs to be fun," said Vaughan, "and I'm going to do everything I can to succeed at it. Jon and I both have a shot at the big leagues, and we're milking it for all we've got."
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