Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Aug. 25, 2017 – Source: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox have undergone a series of drastic injuries, and because of that, a few roster spots have opened up. One of the primary beneficiaries was relief pitcher Brandon Workman. Workman has a history of major league success, and he’s performed well in his call-up. While he still has minor league options left, Brandon Workman should be here to stay.
Brandon Workman Belongs in the Majors
Despite spending most of 2018 in the minors, Workman has performed well in a limited sample size. Granted, he’s only appeared in three games, but he’s been lights out in each performance. Workman has yet to allow a run and has only given up one hit while striking out three. Workman’s first two appearances came in mop-up duty, but his third appearance came in a big situation.
Workman entered the top of the eighth in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox when the score was still 3-2. Despite having Joe Kelly and Matt Barnesavailable, manager Alex Cora turned to Workman in the high leverage situation. Workman rewarded that faith by allowing just one single with all three outs coming by way of the K.
While these three outings were great, it’s still too small of a sample size to make any conclusions about Workman. Fortunately, Workman has a track record of major league success.
Workman’s History of Success
Brandon Workman first appeared in the majors in 2013, playing a fairly sizable role on the World Series squad. While that bullpen clearly ran through Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, Workman was still dominant throughout the playoffs. In seven playoff appearances, Workman pitched 8.2 innings, allowing just seven hits without allowing an earned run. He did this against the best competition in baseball, showing that the big stage wasn’t too much for him to handle.
Of course, that playoff run came before Workman’s Tommy John surgery. Tommy John surgery is notoriously one of the hardest injuries to return from, and Workman lost two seasons to the injury. There was no way what was left in Workman’s tank, but he answered those questions with a great 2017.
Workman finished his 2017 season with an impressive 3.18 ERA, striking 22.8% of the batters he faced. While those numbers were solid, his season statistics looked even better before September.
In the first six months of the season, Workman posted a 2.25 ERA, striking out 20.2% of batters while walking just 4.4%. Workman’s work in September was so bad that it caused his ERA to rise by almost a full point. However, there’s probably no reason to worry about that lone rough month, the statistical drop was likely due to fatigue. Workman hadn’t pitched in two years, so it makes sense that he would have worn down as the season wore on.
There’s enough history to show that Workman can be a strong part of a bullpen. With the Red Sox bullpen being relatively streaky all season, keeping a dependable presence like Workman could serve wonders. However, if Workman stays on the roster, then who gets sent down? Betts and Pedroia aren’t far away from returning, and Drew Pomeranz should return sooner rather than later. Roster moves need to be made, so what other moves could the Red Sox make?
(Edit: Mookie Betts was activated prior to Monday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. Sam Travis has been demoted.)
Freeing Up Space for Workman
As previously mentioned, Betts, Pedroia, and Pomeranz will all be returning to the roster at some point, and the Red Sox will need to open up three spaces. Workman still has minor league options, so he’d be a natural candidate for demotion. However, there are other options to free up the necessary roster spots.
The two most obvious candidates are Sam Travis and Justin Haley. Both Travis and Haley were only promoted in light of the recent injuries, and neither is better than Workman. Travis is nothing more than a fringe major leaguer, while Haley only has 18 unimpressive major league innings to his name.
With those two easy solutions, there’s only one more spot to worry about. Now, nobody knows when Pomeranz will return, as he’s yet to make a rehab appearance. However, assuming he won’t be gone long, a difficult decision will need to be made. Either Workman gets demoted, or somebody gets designated for assignment.
The solution should be to designate Heath Hembree for assignment. The Red Sox need the best bullpen they can get, and the best bullpen involves Workman. Designating Hembree risks losing him to another roster, but that’s a sacrifice worth taking. Hembree isn’t better than the average street free agent, and his loss wouldn’t be felt. The Red Sox already have better options like Bobby Poyner in Pawtucket should they need bullpen depth.
In the short term, the Red Sox can keep Workman without making any drastic moves. However, the Sox need to keep Workman up even when Pomernaz returns. Workman has shown the ability to be a great reliever, and his resurgence could bring the Boston bullpen from good to great.