Red Sox interim manager, Ron Roenicke, plans to use Brandon Workman as the team’s closer next season. Workman was Boston’s closer at the end of 2019.
Roenicke, who served as bench coach in 2018-2019 before Alex Cora and the team parted ways last month, is leaving the door open for other players to be used in the same role. This isn’t surprising as the Red Sox took a closer by committee approach for a significant portion of last year, before Workman took over the job after the All-Star break and pitched well down the stretch.
Workman’s career with the Red Sox was marked with more downs than ups prior to last year. Boston selected Workman in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft and he spent two full seasons in the minors before earning his first call up in 2013.
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He made the postseason roster and would go on to throw 8.2 innings in relief, allowing 0 earned runs including a 1-2-3 8th inning in the decisive Game 6 en route the Red Sox’ 8th championship. Workman, along with Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, are the only remaining members of the 2013 World Series team still playing (loosely defined in Pedroia’s case) for the Red Sox.
Workman spent time in both Boston and Pawtucket in 2014 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2015 that kept him out of the bigs for two full seasons. He again spent time in both Pawtucket and Boston in 2017 and 2018, made the postseason roster in 2018, but pitched so poorly (5 earned runs in 3 appearances totaling just 1 IP) that he was replaced by Drew Pomeranz on the World Series squad.
But 2019 was a whole new ballgame for Workman. He retained the closer spot for the second half of the season and pitched in 73 games, producing a 1.88 ERA on the season. Workman ranked 6th in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Win Probability Added (WPA) among all relief pitchers last year.
He’s mean in the 9th, too. Throughout his career, hitters facing Workman in the 9th inning slash .155/.256/.238, good for a .495 OPS. Last season, he got his opponents’ OPS down to just .434 by leading the league in batting average against and slugging % against. And yes, he lead the league in opponents OPS, too.
He’s only put together one solid season to this point in his career, but if he can keep this up then the closer role is his to lose. The Red Sox have enough question marks heading into the season. Pitchers and catchers are already getting loose in Florida and Arizona and the Red Sox only just named an interim manager last week. The fifth starter position is fully up in the air and the rest of the rotation is shaky as is.
By no means do the Red Sox have a lock down pen, but a solid closer is a step in the right direction. 2019 was Brandon Workman’s breakout year, here’s hoping 2020 will be more of the same.