‘A long way from Portland’: Xander Bogaerts, Brandon Workman make mark in ALCS
|10.20.13 at 4:53 am ET|
Amidst the organized chaos on the field at Fenway Park as Saturday night turned to Sunday morning, Brandon Workman, dripping a combination of champagne and perspiration, sought out and embraced one teammate in particular: Xander Bogaerts.
These two rookies, a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher and a 21-year-old infielder, savored part of the moment together — and for good reason. Six months ago, as the Red Sox began a turnaround season to just about everyone’s surprise, they were enduring long bus rides and frigid Maine nights with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.
“I just grabbed Bogaerts and said, ‘We’re a long way from Portland right now, aren’t we?’ ” said Workman, about as jubilant as one would expect a veteran of exactly 24 major league games to be. “Obviously for both of us it’s what we planned on — well, not planned, but were hoping to do this year, and to be able to do it, and both of us contributing a little bit, it’s special right now.”
After pitching effectively with Portland for two months, Workman left Bogaerts and the Sea Dogs for Triple-A Pawtucket, where he stayed for about a month until injuries to the major league team necessitated his call-up. Bogaerts, meanwhile, made the jump to the PawSox five days after Workman did, and he continued to display the skills that made him the organization’s top prospect: power and patience at the plate combined with a will to learn in the field and maturity beyond his years off of it.
Bogaerts made his much-anticipated big league debut Aug. 20 in San Francisco, and despite sporadic play since has earned himself what seems to be a regular spot in the postseason lineup.
Now, with the Red Sox off to their third World Series in a decade, the pair has its fingerprints all over the Red Sox’ American League Championship Series title, clinched by Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Tigers.
Bogaerts struck first. He sent a screaming two-out double off of the Green Monster — a liner that would have been out in a lot of parks, including Fenway had it been a few feet to the right. Jacoby Ellsbury drove him in one pitch later with a single to right to break a scoreless tie.
Workman’s contribution came just half an inning later, but at a time when things were looking far bleaker for the Sox. The Tigers had just taken a 2-1 lead and were threatening for more with men on the corners and no one out. Manager John Farrell brought Workman in to face Jhonny Peralta, one of Detroit’s hottest hitters.
Peralta sent an 0-1 fastball to Dustin Pedroia at second and it turned into two outs. Pedroia tagged Victor Martinez, his former teammate who was running to second, then fired home to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who ran Prince Fielder back toward third. Fielder’s belly-flop back to the bag fell far short, and Saltalamacchia fell on him for the second out. Alex Avila watched a 94 mph fastball for strike three to end the inning.
“I thought we were just going to get a regular double play,” Workman said. “My back was turned and I didn’t see what Fielder was doing. Next thing I know, it looked like Pedey was about to throw a ball through my chest to the plate, so I just hit the dirt. I was trying to stay out of the way.”
Workman returned for the seventh, but after retiring the first two batters, Jose Iglesias singled and Torii Hunter reached on a dribbler Workman couldn’t get a grip on. Junichi Tazawa escaped the jam to make Workman’s line final 1 2/3 scoreless innings, two hits, one strikeout.
“Workman tonight,” Farrell started, “outstanding inning-plus on his part.”
The Sox’ seventh-inning rally culminated in Shane Victorino’s series-winning grand slam, and Bogaerts was again in the middle of it. He drew a walk — his second of the game and fifth in 11 postseason plate appearances — as the last batter likely AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer faced.
That plate appearance was consistent with his first two, and, really, consistent with his season. Bogaerts worked the count full all three times he stepped up to the plate, seeing a total of 19 pitches, nearly a fifth of Scherzer’s 110 on the night.
Bogaerts’ first time up was particularly impressive. He went down 0-2 — both fastballs called strikes — before taking a number of close pitches.
“I know [Scherzer is] an amazing pitcher, but the first at-bat I took two fastballs,” Bogaerts said, as even-keeled as ever. “I just wanted to see his angle, see where the ball comes out because I’d never faced him. I ended up having a good day and we won.”
Added Farrell: “Much like we’ve gotten reports all year long from our development staff, he’s beyond his years. He’s got a bright, bright future.”
The rookies’ contributions underscore the Red Sox philosophy of just how important it is to groom your own talent.
“Those two guys certainly played a part of [the win],” said Ben Crockett, director of player development, getting in on the celebration on the field. “And I think from top to bottom we’re all very proud of the contributions they made.”
Workman, still trying to find words to describe not only the rush of winning the pennant but the journey that he and Bogaerts took to get there, put it simply.
“It’s worked out for both of us,” Workman said. “It’s been a hell of a ride.”
A ride that that has yet to end.
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