Tuesday, March 11, 2014
BOSTON - During batting practice Wednesday, Brandon Workman stood in right field, hanging with Jon Lester and John Lackey.
Acting like he belongs with Boston's elite pitchers?
Actually, it appears Workman does belong. He no longer is just an arm filling in, nor just a guy who makes a good story -- a pitcher starting the season in Portland and ending in Fenway Park.
Now Boston needs Workman.
On Tuesday, in one of the most thrilling -- and maybe pivotal -- games at Fenway this season, Workman entered in the eighth inning with Boston leading Detroit 2-1 and the Tigers sending up Miguel Cabrera, a man Lester likes to call "the greatest hitter on the planet."
One misplaced pitch and the game is tied.
Such a pressure situation. And Manager John Farrell called on a pitcher who had as many games with the Sea Dogs this season (11) as with the Red Sox.
Back in July when Workman was filling in as a starter, Farrell called Workman's performances "encouraging."
Now Workman is no longer an encouraging pitcher, he is one of Boston's best options out of the bullpen.
"Through his performance he's gained a lot of trust," Farrell said. "He didn't show any fear or intimidation in any appearances as a starter or reliever.
"Felt like in the situation (against Cabrera), with his strike-throwing capability, good mound presence "
Workman's goal was simple: avoid Cabrera's roundhouse.
"Trying to go away with fastballs. I missed with the first two," Workman said about falling behind 2-and-0. A dangerous situation became more so.
The composed Workman came back with a fastball over the outside corner that Cabrera hit for a harmless fly to right.
"It was a big spot, obviously. I was excited they put me in that spot," Workman said. "I just had to execute my pitches.
"I think I've adjusted well (to relieving) I'm feeling comfortable out there, being ready every day."
Good thing. Boston's right-handed bullpen options are limited after Kuji Uehara, the surprise of the year as a dominant closer, and setup man Junichi Tazawa.
Interestingly, when choosing a right-hander to face Cabrera, Farrell went with the rookie.
"(Tuesday) night was probably the highest leverage situation he's been brought into," Farrell said. "As he's done in all the other opportunities, he handled it well."
FARRELL HAS GROOMED other rookie relievers who were former Sea Dogs, including Justin Masterson and Daniel Bard. Farrell was the Red Sox pitching coach for both.
Masterson began 2008 in Portland and ended up becoming one of Manager Terry Francona's most dependable arms out of the bullpen in the 2008 playoffs.
Bard finished the 2008 season in Portland and was relieving 49 games for Boston in 2009 before his breakout season in 2010.
"Very different people. But in those (major league) settings, they handled the emotions the right way and executed," Farrell said.
"That's what we're seeing in Brandon."
BARD IS NO LONGER with the Red Sox, having been claimed by the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.
Bard's troubles began in the tail end of 2011 as part of Boston's infamous collapse. A failed attempt at starting followed in 2012.
This year he competed for a job in spring training but was eventually sent to Portland.
Bard showed glimpses of hope, but his wildness became epidemic. He suffered a torn abdominal muscle and was sent to Florida for rehab. In recent minor league appearances his control showed no improvement.
The Red Sox designated Bard for assignment Sunday, removing him from the 40-man roster to make room for outfielder Quintin Berry. The procedure made Bard available to other teams, and the Cubs snagged him.
The Cubs, of course, feature former Red Sox executives Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, who was the Red Sox scouting director when Boston picked Bard in the first round of the 2006 draft.
"Not surprised the Cubs would claim him given the familiarity with Theo and Jed," Farrell said.
"The most important thing is we wish him well. We hope he gets back on track. There is still a good pitcher in there."
Even so, the Red Sox could no longer wait for that to happen.
"Time was of the essence for us; we needed the roster space," Farrell said. "I'm not going to say he can't (come back).
"Based on what we saw over the last couple of years, it needs to be built back gradually. How long that takes is the unknown in this."
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: