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The Red Sox called up righthander Brandon Workman from Worcester Thursday, and he joined the team in Houston for their series finale against the Astros.

Workman signed a minor league deal with the Sox early last month after he was released by the Cubs. He had an opt-out in his Sox contract and exercised it earlier this week. The Sox decided to select Workman’s contract and expect him to play a role in the bullpen going forward.

“We expect him to be here,” manager Alex Cora said Thursday morning before the Red Sox’ 5-1 win against the Astros. “And he’s ready to pitch, so we’ll find spots for him. We’ll find matchups that benefit him and us, and we’ll get him going.”


Workman is no stranger to the Red Sox, after spending parts of six seasons (2013-20) with the club. Last August, he was traded to the Phillies in the deal that brought Nick Pivetta to Boston. He became a free agent after last season and signed with the Cubs in February.

Workman pitched in 14 games for the Phillies, going 1-4 with a 6.92 ERA. He saw action in 10 games with the Cubs, going 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA.

He had a breakout year in 2019 as the Red Sox’ closer, when he logged 71⅔ innings, fanned 104 batters, and registered a 1.88 ERA. He had 16 saves.

The Red Sox are hoping some familiarity can help get him back on track.

“Obviously, being familiar, it works in every aspect in your job,” Cora said. “Knowing people and knowing your surroundings. This is where he grew up playing baseball.

“He can perform, hopefully, the way he pitched in ’19,” Cora said. “If he does that, we’re going to be in great shape, but at the same time, [we want him] to do his job. That’s all we want.”


Brandon Workman is back for his second stint with the Red Sox.
Brandon Workman is back for his second stint with the Red Sox.Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff

Workman’s 12-6 curveball can give opposing clubs a headache when it is at its best. In 2019, opponents had just a .128 batting average against that pitch. But the success of Workman’s curveball, and his overall effectiveness in general, is largely dictated by his fastball velocity. That same year, Workman’s average four-seamer velocity was 92.9 m.p.h., but dropped to 92.5 m.p.h. then 91.5 in 2021.

“With him, velocity is very important,” Cora said at the beginning of May. “The shape of the breaking ball and the spin is usually the same. It’s still a good breaking ball, but if he doesn’t have something else to separate he becomes a one-pitch pitcher. His cutter is a part of the equation, too.”

Workman worked the final inning vs. the Astros Sunday. He allowed a run on a Yuli Gurriel homer while also striking out two.

To make room on the roster, pitcher Colten Brewer was designated for assignment.

Hernández questions loom large

Kiké Hernández had the day off Thursday. Cora felt as if Hernández, who is in the midst of an 0-for-24 skid, was in need of a mental breather. Nonetheless, that won’t stop the questions centered around Hernández and if he should remain in the leadoff spot or not.

To this point it’s been clear, and perhaps, low-hanging fruit: Hernández is a liability batting leadoff. He’s hitting just .228 on the year with a .284 on-base percentage in 43 games.

“He is aggressive. He is relentless,” hitting coach Tim Hyers said. “He’s going to give you everything he’s got. And so I think that has hurt him lately. Maybe chasing some pitches that he shouldn’t and missing balls that have been in the strike zone that he should hit.”


Kiké Hernández is in an 0-for-24 slump.
Kiké Hernández is in an 0-for-24 slump.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Hyers noted that Hernández does an excellent job of working the count, but as soon as it gets to 3-2, the at-bat gets away from him. Hernández owns a .091 batting average in 3-2 counts striking out 10 times. Heading into the season, the Sox and Cora believed that Hernández, who was a bench player for the Dodgers, had the potential to be an everyday guy. That might still be true, but what has remained clear for much of the season is the fact that Hernández represents a huge hole in the No. 1 spot in the order.

“I know he wants to get on base more. We just have to find a way to make that happen,” Hyers said.

Team USA rained out

Team USA’s final game of pool play vs. Puerto RIco in the Americas Qualifier was canceled in the fourth inning Thursday due to rain.

Team USA led Puerto Rico at that point, 6-1.

Prior to the cancellation, Triston Casas was 1 for 1 with a single, walk, and two runs scored. Jarren Duran was 0 for 3 in the contest.

The game is not official and will not be counted.

Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.