Boston Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman developed into one of the best closers in the game last season, and he’s looking for a repeat in 2020.
It’s hard to say that I’m excited to see what the Red Sox pitching staff is capable of this season, especially after another abysmal performance today. For all that we know they may be getting all of the kinks out of the way early so they can dominate during the season, at least I hope they are. There is one arm on the staff that I have little to no doubt in and that’s Brandon Workman.
The righty was a revelation for an otherwise embarrassing Red Sox team last season. Whether he was coming in for early relief or assuming the closer role late in the year, he was reliable and automatic.
Workman used a heavy dose of curveballs with some heat sprinkled in to keep hitters guessing what was coming next. His curve has such a nasty break to it that NESN commentator and Boston Legend Dennis Eckersley affectionately dubbed him the “Yackman.”
Last year was beyond confusing not only for Red Sox Nation but for the players as well. Second-year manager Alex Cora was unnecessarily coy with his pitching staff in regards to what they’d be doing in 2019. Boston was left without a closer after Craig Kimbrel held-out and then signed elsewhere in free agency. Cora would use a rotation of guys to close out games with zero success, then Workman emerged from the shadows.
Workman and interim manager Ron Roenicke both spoke to the media while in Fort Myers and it’s pretty clear that both have a gameplan for 2020.
"“I think with just his makeup, it takes a different type of mentality to allow a guy to be a closer every year,” Roenicke said. “They have to be willing to go out there and they’re going to give it up at times and lose a ballgame. And then, how are they the next day when they bounce back? Workman has the mentality to do that, so it allows us to believe that he can go out and do that for an entire season.”"
His progression from the 2018 World Series team to what he did last season was like night and day. Though he was good during that championship campaign he was absolutely untouchable on the mound in 2019. The righty finished off the year with a 1.88 ERA through 71.2 innings on top of a 10-1 record and 16 saves.
Workmans only real blemish was his walk total which capped at 45 for a 5.7 BB/9 ratio. That’s the downside of having a hard to control pitch as your main weapon. However, he balanced that out with an insane 13.1 K/9 and 1.033 WHIP, which was one of the best on the team. If he can get those walks under control in 2020 then he has a great opportunity at becoming an elite closer.
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With those numbers under his belt, it’s pretty clear that he’ll be heading into Opening Day with the title of closer by his name. Rightfully so as well, he was the only pitcher that night in and night out that the Red Sox could count on to not give the game away. Other relievers like Marcus Walden, Josh Taylor and at times Matt Barnes all had moments, but none were like the Yackman.
It’s pretty obvious that Workman is excited to have a set role and position that he can prepare for.
"“It’s a lot of fun pitching in those spots,” Workman said. “I really do enjoy pitching in those games, those tight games late. I think it’s fun — the adrenaline of it is fun.”"
Having Roenicke at the helm for this season is another boost for the team as well as Workman. He’s a familiar face that’s more than comfortable with this squad and vice versa. The skipper will know when he can and can’t call upon the reliever based on his workload. That level of trust and familiarity is one of the few positives to come out of this offseason for the Red Sox.
Brandon Workman has more than earned the opportunity to be the official closer for Boston this year. His reliability and consistency were unmatched throughout last season and he’ll be looking to offer that same quality in the upcoming campaign. With the chance to be the man to come in and shut down the opposition for 2020, I think the Yackman may earn his chapter in Red Sox lore.