It went largely unnoticed because he was pitching for a team that finished 19 games out of first place. But Brandon Workman was one of the best relievers in the game last season.
The righthander was 10-1 with a 1.88 earned run average and allowed 29 hits over 71⅔ innings, only one of them a home run. His 104 strikeouts were sixth among relievers.
Opponents hit .123 against Workman and he stranded 19 of the 21 runners he inherited.
His 5.7 walks per nine innings were a career worst. But some of that was a product of Workman having the confidence not to give in to certain hitters knowing he could handle who was waiting on deck.
Workman didn’t have a set role when the season started but was the closer when it finished.
For the Red Sox to overcome a weak rotation, that season can’t be an outlier for Workman. The Sox will lean heavily on their bullpen.
Workman was hit hard in two intrasquad game appearances since the Red Sox reassembled earlier this month. But the action on his fastball and curveball were normal.
“I’ve just got to dial in a little bit with command and some of my pitch sequencing,” he said Monday after working out at Boston College.
Workman returned home to Texas when spring training shut down. He worked out in his garage, firing balls into a net, before connecting with new teammate Jonathan Lucroy and throwing to him at high school diamonds.
“I was able to do a pretty good amount of work,” Workman said.
The toughest part was not knowing when the season would start. Pitchers typically construct their schedule around building up for the first game.
“I just tried to throw as much as I could without wearing myself out,” Workman said.
Workman, who turns 32 in August, has two World Series rings with the Sox, making his major league debut in July of 2013 and going on to appear in seven postseason games.
He returned to starting in 2014 and pitched poorly. He then missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. Workman has been a reliable late-inning reliever since.
If baseball completes this season, Workman will have enough service time to become a free agent.
Hall steps up
Matt Hall worked three scoreless innings in a short intrasquad game. Facing a lineup of regulars, he allowed one hit and struck out five with one walk.
Hall is a 26-year-old lefty obtained from the Tigers in January. He had 9.48 ERA over 21 relief appearances and 31⅓ innings from 2018-19 but pitched well as a starter in Double A in 2017.
“We know he has a good curveball and he showed that today,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “In talking to our hitters they were commenting on the curveball. That is a real nice weapon he has.”
Hall is a candidate to pitch 3-4 innings following an opener. The Sox are looking for pitchers who can give them some length.
“I don’t want to just say eat up innings because that kind of gives you the idea we’re behind and we’re just trying to cover ourselves,” Roenicke said. “But you need to pitch some innings and Matt is one of those guys.”
Matt Barnes pitched an inning and allowed a home run to right field by J.D. Martinez, who was 3 for 3 with a walk batting for both teams.
The game was played without fielders or base running. It was more an opportunity for Hall, Barnes, Phillips Valdez and Domingo Tapia to face hitters in a competitive setting.
NESN will carry 55 games this season starting with Opening Day on July 24. Their plan is to use Dave O’Brien, Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley for “the majority” of those games. They will work from NESN’s studios in Watertown.
Fox (3) or ESPN (2) picked up the other five games. All are road games, four of them against the Yankees.
The Orioles named John Means their starter for Opening Day. He faced the Sox five times last season and was 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA. Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc will follow him. The Sox haven’t announced their rotation. But Nate Eovaldi, Martin Perez and Ryan Weber are lined up for those games. Eovaldi is scheduled to pitch in Tuesday’s intrasquad game. The seven-inning game will start at 10 a.m. in the hopes of avoiding rain . . . MLB assigned three umpires to Red Sox camp: Adam Beck, Shane Livensparger and Jeremie Rehak. They will work the intrasquad games through July 20 . . . The Sox have 10 open spots in the 60-player pool for the season. They plan to add some players this week and assign them to work out at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket during the season. Players cut from the Fenway camp would report there as well.