Red Sox: Brandon Workman offers up some positives for the bullpen
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox have little that can be considered a bullpen foundation for 2020. One exception is right-hander Brandon Workman.
This season the Red Sox pitching staff has – to make a classic statement – underperformed regarding expectations. The staff “Ace” was supposed to be Chris Sale who has simply – using a boxing vernacular – tanked. Right behind on the pitching highway to baseball hell is Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi, and David Price.
To paraphrase a long-ago comedian of some note – Henny Youngman – “Take my bullpen, please!” The bullpen needs a hazmat suit for bullpen catcher Mani Martinez. Boston’s bullpen has been in a season-long contest with the rotation to determine which is most toxic to pitching success.
Even in these troubled times vis-a-vis Red Sox pitching a nugget does surface to ease the pain of poor performances. That one happens to be right-hander Brandon Workman who is a rarity in recent Red Sox history being a successful pitching product of the farm system. Workman – now on the cusp of 31-year-olds – was a second-round selection in 2010.
Workman has certainly paid his dues in both time and injury, missing a season for you know what surgery that is rampant among pitchers. Workman’s first two Boston season (2013-14) was a nightmare including a dismal 1-10 in 2014. Since returning to the staff in 2017, it has been a new and very improved Workman. One giant smudge is a forgettable performance last season in the ALCS allowing four runs and recording a lone out.
At this juncture, Workman has become closer by attrition as many have tried and many have failed. This season he has used three basic pitches: A fastball (33.5%), a cut fastball (18.6%), and a curve (47.6%). If it’s speed that one admires, Workman will not break any triple digits pumping out his fastball at 92.7v.
Workman is quite stingy in one particular statistical area and that is a 3.4 H/9. The negative is a 5.8 BB/9 offset by a 12.3 K/9. In his 49.1 innings, Brandon has allowed a lone home run – Porcello and Sale can exceed that in just an inning.
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Can he be the closer of the future? This season his overall pitching has been exemplary, but in the closer situation, a few bumps do appear with a 3.89 ERA and 1-1 record. The job is now Workman’s to lose and to make enough of a positive impression to be considered for the crucial role in 2020.
This season Brandon Workman is earning just $1.1 MM, but arbitration awaits and that figure will take a hefty bump upwards. What is known is that he can and has provided excellent bullpen work for the last three seasons, but closing will be a true test. If the Red Sox seek another closer in the offseason or Workman fails in his trial run his value has already been established in other bullpen roles.
The Red Sox will make dramatic changes to the pitching staff with the primary aim being a rebuilt bullpen. The rotation is expensive and unmovable so the back-end of the game becomes the target. Expect arms to be traded, released, or ignored, but Brandon Workman has certainly shown in three seasons that he is a keeper.