For the first time in several years, perhaps the most stable part of the Red Sox roster is the pitching staff. The Red Sox have so much depth that they are struggling to find room for several major league pitchers who could easily contribute on most teams. One of these pitchers is Brandon Workman; in his short major league career, Workman has already proven that he can contribute in a variety of roles. The only question is whether he will be able to fit into any of those roles at the beginning of next season.
Injuries happen and Workman will undoubtedly be in Boston for a decent-sized chunk of 2014. However, looking at the Red Sox pitching staff right now, there is not an obvious fit for Workman. There’s almost no chance that Workman makes the rotation unless serious injuries occur in spring training, but there’s little to no room for him even in the bullpen. Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Edward Mujica, and Andrew Miller are locks to start the season on the 25-man roster. Burke Badenhop and Ryan Dempster are also highly likely to make the team unless Dempster or Jake Peavy is traded.
With this in mind, there’s no available spot for Workman on the big league roster. However, Workman will still assume the important role of the 26th man for the Red Sox. If any pitchers go down with injury or are ineffective, he will almost certainly be the first one in the major leagues due to his versatility and relative success in 2013.
Too much depth is a good problem to have, but there are still questions surrounding Workman’s 2014 role. There is the question of whether he will pitch out of the rotation or out of the bullpen in Triple-A Pawtucket. Workman had never pitched in relief before being moved to the bullpen down the stretch in 2013 and his inexperience showed. In 17 games and 23.1 innings in relief, he posted a 6.94 ERA and uncharacteristic 4.24 BB/9 rate.
However, it’s reasonable to peg that to inexperience in a new role at the highest level he had ever seen. Since Workman has never spent extensive time in relief, it’s worth placing him in the Pawtucket bullpen so that he becomes more comfortable in shorter outings. However, in the long run it would be best to have the option of Workman as a starter. It will be fascinating to see how John Farrell and the Red Sox play this situation at the beginning of next year and in what capacity we see Brandon Workman in 2014.