Brandon Workman proving himself as Red Sox closer
It’s been a wild ride so far for the Red Sox and the 2020 campaign. A hot Opening Day win turned into a miserable four-game losing streak. However, things are turning around for Boston as they’ve won back-to-back games and are heading to the Bronx. One man that’s played a big part in the turnaround has been Brandon Workman, but how much gas is in his tank?
Last night Ron Roenicke went to his closer to finish off the Mets in the ninth, nothing out of the ordinary there. The interesting part of Workman pitching last night comes in the fact that it was his third day of action in a row. It’s not out of the ordinary to see a reliever get frequent use but three straight days could lead to some negative effects down the road.
We all know the trope that this season is a sprint and not a marathon and about the 60 games, so I won’t beat you over the head with that again. I get why Roenicke would want to use his most reliable relievers often but if he burns them out, then he’s left with those that are untested. I’d much rather have Workman, Matt Barnes, and Heath Hembree with gas in the tank come September than to rely on Josh Osich, Matt Hall, or Austin Brice.
Both Workman and Roenicke spoke about his heavy workload this week and how much the team plans to use him in the short season.
“I woke up feeling pretty good,” Workman said. “Not too much soreness or anything, so I told him I’d be good for an inning tonight.”
It’s not surprising that Workman wants to get in on as much action as he can, he’s a workhorse and has shown what he’s capable of. He was without a doubt one of Boston’s best pitchers during an otherwise miserable 2020, but there has to be a limit to how much he can pitch. Burning through his innings early in the season could mean not having him available for the postseason if things come to that.
On the other hand, there really aren’t any other options for Roenicke to close out games. Ryan Brasier should be nowhere near the ninth inning. Barnes is proving to be a strong setup man in the eighth with Hembree showing strength in the seventh. The trio has been one of the few good things in the way of the Red Sox and their pitching in 2020, so I don’t want to see the unit broken down.
“Last night, I was honestly pretty happy with myself, it was just the execution was not crisp at all,” Workman said. “Tonight, I was able to locate, get ahead in counts and work ahead.”
It’s not as much of an issue for Hembree and Barnes as their roles can be alternated with other arms, but Workman needs to be protected. Having your closer ready to go when the game is on the line is far more important than a middle reliever in the sixth inning. It’s going to be a fine line for Roenicke and the Sox to walk if they want any sort of chance at making a run towards October.
On one hand, they absolutely need the knuckleballer as much as possible but they also can’t empty his tank this early in the year. Workman’s 2019 was a revelation for the Red Sox and he’s looking to follow up that performance with another big year. The righty went 10-1 last year with a 1.88 ERA through 71.2 innings. His 104/45 K/BB ratio allowed him to finish with a 1.033 WHIP and 13.1 K/9. He would evolve into the closer as the season went on and totaled 16 saves in a short window.
“This is a guy who can throw a lot,” Roenicke said before the game. “He’s really durable.”
The Red Sox are on the upswing but with a trio of games in the Bronx kicking off tonight, I don’t know if using Workman as much against the Mets was a wise move. If Boston had a more reliable bullpen then I wouldn’t be as worried but we all know the story there. Using the closer as much as they have already could lead to some long-term issues for the team. Hopefully, he’s able to get a night or two of rest this week so he can come back strong and ready to go.