Could Brandon Workman be the next Justin Masterson for Red Sox?
|07.10.13 at 11:20 am ET|
With the Red Sox bullpen short-staffed and struggling to find arms, the team could greatly benefit from a pitcher reminiscent of Justin Masterson in 2008. They may have that in Brandon Workman.
The right-hander’s contract was purchased from Triple-A Pawtucket to take the open spot on the 40-man roster just over a month after Workman was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A. Workman joined the big league club on Tuesday in Seattle.
Workman has worked his entire professional career as a starter, getting credit for one relief appearance this season that hardly counts as such in the most literal sense (Craig Breslow got the start for Portland on a rehab assignment and was unable to record an out; Workman came in and threw the next five innings). He’ll be pitching out of the bullpen for the big-league club, at least for the time being, as the team tries to decide whether it should acquire a reliever before the July 31 deadline or proceed with in-house options such as Workman. Manager John Farrell isn’t worried about the role shift, however.
“He has some experience in college at this, and it’s not completely foreign for pitchers to come to the big leagues and get exposure in shorter stints until they get their feet on the ground,” Farrell told reporters in Seattle. “They get a better feel for the speed of the game and the strength of hitters up and down the lineup. This is a path that is traditionally taken.”
Workman did indeed split time between starting and relieving at the University of Texas, where he made 15 relief appearances in his freshman year (21 total games), and seven in his sophomore year (as opposed to 13 starts) while coming out of the bullpen twice in 17 games as a junior with the Longhorns. Workman also came out of the ‘pen briefly in his two years with the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League in 2008 and 2009. Cooper Farris, who serves as the manager of the Gatemen and who was at the helm of the team when Workman played in the Cape League, knows that Workman will have no trouble performing in whatever role the Red Sox throw at him.
“He was good both ways for us,” Farris said of Workman’s ability to perform as a starter or a reliever. “He’s just a big strong kid and he threw really hard.”
Farris describes the 24-year-old as a “fierce competitor” who was an important part of Wareham’s pitching staff in his two years on the Cape. Workman has been hailed for being consistent every time he’s on the mound, giving his team solid innings and a chance to win. Farris agrees wholeheartedly with that assessment.
“You just knew he was going to play when he was out there. He was what you wanted him to be when he was out there. Every time he went out, we had a chance. That’s the thing that stood out most to me,” said Farris. “In the Cape, during those little losing streaks or whatever, you look for that one arm that will get you out of it, and he was it. He left us with a chance to win every time.”
Workman’s numbers through three years in the Red Sox minor league system certainly back up the claim that he’s a dependable force on the mound. He owns a sub-4.00 ERA at every stop through the system, with his 3.71 mark with Single-A Greenville being his highest ERA at any level. Meanwhile, he appears to have gotten progressively better while moving up, as his 2.80 ERA in six starts with Pawtucket represents his best mark during his tour of the system.
He’s also been consistent on a game-to-game basis. Workman has not given up more than five earned runs in any professional game, and has given up more than three earned runs in only three of his 17 outings this season. Workman enjoyed a lot of success in Triple-A this season after being promoted in early June, compiling a 3-1 record, striking out 34 and walking 13 in 35 1/3 innings for the PawSox over six starts. He’s already logged over 100 innings this season between Portland and Pawtucket, after working over 130 innings in each of the previous two seasons.
The right-hander’s swift rise through the professional ranks this season is reminiscent of the ascent of Masterson, who made stops in Portland and Pawtucket before taking on a relief role for the big-league team in July 2008. Farris, who also managed Masterson in the Cape League, sees a lot of similarities between the two big, tall righties, both in terms of their trajectory to the big leagues and their overall demeanor.
“Brandon’s just kind of a bulldog, you know, that bulldog mentality, thinking, ‘I’m just going to go and throw my stuff, here we go,’ and that’s the same way Justin was,” said Farris. “No one really knew who he was when he came here. He was the same way, he just said, ‘Here you go, hit it … if you can.’”
Farris says that Workman has always been a quiet type, the kind to go out and compete, focused on doing his job.
“He just went about his business and worked hard, you know, he didn’t really talk a whole lot, just went about his business and you knew you would get something good out of him when he went out there,” Farris said. “He had that everyday grind, when it was his turn he was going to be ready.”
But the thing that impressed the Gatemen boss the most about Workman was his competitive fire and his ability to focus on the task at hand. When asked if Workman would have any trouble handling the pressure of pitching in the major leagues, Farris rejected the notion.
“I don’t think so. I think he’s just going to get up there and battle. That’s all he knows how to do,” pronounced Farris. “I don’t think anything’s going to bother him much.”
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