BOSTON — An infield single brought out Manager John Farrell to argue the call. Brandon Workman waited on the mound, with runners on first and third and one out in the fifth.
Evan Longoria stood at the plate, waiting, his explosive bat in hand.
Workman is the rookie pitcher who began the season at Hadlock Field. You’d never have thought this was just his second major league start, in a very big American League East game against fast-closing rival Tampa Bay.
You can never tell by Workman’s appearance.
“He doesn’t give you that deer-in-the headlights look when you see him on the mound or between innings,” Farrell said. “It’s been very encouraging.
“We’re talking about a very mature guy who is in the early stages of getting himself established at the big-league level.”
Workman, 24, added to his credentials Monday with six impressive innings against the Rays, allowing two runs on seven hits through six innings. On the other side, however, the Red Sox could not solve All-Star left-hander Matt Moore in a 3-0 loss.
Maybe the best part of Workman’s outing was that he lasted six innings.
No big deal, you say. On the night after an 11-inning game, when Boston wanted to rest its bullpen, Workman began by throwing 33 pitches in the first inning, then 18 more in the second.
With Workman throwing 51 pitches through two innings, it might have been a long night for the Boston pitching staff. But he needed only 52 more pitches for the next four innings.
“I was leaving pitches up for them to hit,” Workman said of the early trouble. “Felt like I settled in and threw some quality pitches, getting guys out earlier in the count.”
Workman, in other words, hung in there. It is what the Red Sox expect.
“He’s not a guy who gets too nervous,” catcher Ryan Lavarnway said. “Having just realized his dream of pitching in the big leagues, to have that much poise is pretty impressive.”
Which brings us to that Longoria at-bat in the fifth inning. Workman’s best pitches are a fastball and a cut fastball. He started Longoria with a change-up (called strike).
Then a cut fastball (ball), change-up (swinging strike), and cut fastball (ball) for a 2-2 count.
Lavarnway said Workman has a “sneaky fastball.” He threw one at 91 mph and Longoria swung and missed.
Were it not for a couple of missed chances, Workman might have met Moore shutout for shutout. In the first inning, with Ben Zobrist on first base, with one out, Workman threw a 2-2 change to Longoria. His foul tip went right into Lavarnway’s mitt, then dropped out.
With new life, Longoria singled Zobrist over to third. Zobrist scored on a sacrifice fly.
In the fifth, with Yunel Escobar on second base and one out, Zobrist hit a slow grounder to short. Jose Iglesias’ throw got to first base at the same time Zobrist did. Bang-bang play. Zobrist was called safe (prompting Farrell’s brief argument).
After Longoria fanned, James Loney singled in Escobar.
Upset? Workman retired the next four batters on four pitches.
“He keeps the game under control,” Farrell said. “He shows maturity. An outstanding six innings of work.”
In two starts for the Red Sox, Workman has allowed four runs on nine hits. He has nine strikeouts, allowing three walks.
The pre-game talk Monday was that Clay Buchholz has been cleared to pitch. But it will take a while for him to come back. Farrell estimated more time for long toss, three bullpen sessions, a simulated game and then one or two rehab games in the minors.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox have Workman and his 2.92 ERA as a starter.
Not a bad fill-in. From Portland in the spring to Boston in the summer.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at [email protected]