There’s one word that Red Sox manager John Farrell has used repeatedly when it comes to rookie righthander Brandon Workman.
Workman doesn’t hesitate to throw the ball over the plate. He isn’t afraid to attack hitters. He doesn’t get rattled with runners on base. He didn’t flinch when injuries forced Farrell to throw him into the rotation.
“When things got a kind of little hectic, we plugged him in for the start and opportunity knocks and he's grabbed a hold of it and he's running with it right now,” Farrell said.
Workman's six innings of one-run ball made an easy night out of the Red Sox’s 8-2 win over the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park Tuesday night.
He struck out nine and held the Mariners to just six hits. In his first three starts, he’s gone at least six innings held each of his opponents to two runs or fewer, something no Red Sox pitcher, rookie or otherwise, has done since Rick Jones in 1976.
As solid as Workman was in his first major league win, Farrell couldn’t say he didn’t expect it.
“Every report from the development staff, who've done a great job with him, has been what we've seen and that's the poise that's the ability to use his fastball to get outs,” Farrell said.
Workman threw 103 pitches, 69 strikes. He fired 67 fastballs and got 10 complete whiffs. At the same time, he fooled batters with his offspeed pitches, throwing 17 curveballs and getting four swinging strikes on them.
When he found himself in a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth after giving three straight singles, he never lost his composure. He struck out Michael Morse with a 92-mile-per-hour heater then dialed it up to 93 to fan Justin Smoak and get out of the inning.
"I try not to get wrapped up in whether I've given up a couple of hits or whatever that inning or what kind of trouble I'm in and just try to make pitches," Workman said. "So I think that lets me not get worried about runners on, runners in scoring position, or anything like that and lets me just continue to make pitches."
He’s 24 years old, but it doesn’t seem that way when he’s on the mound.
“Coming in here I think he was never scared,” said Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “I haven't seen a guy on the mound who's afraid to throw it over the plate and have the guys make contact. He's really good pitching to contact, which is huge. So as a hitter, I look at a guy like that and I want to get aggressive and then he's got his offspeed stuff. He's just done a great job since he's been up here and just needs to continue.”
More than anything, he’s been able to offer some stability to the rotation, which has gone nearly two months without one of its most important pieces, Clay Buchholz.
“We're in every game and he's ... been pitching with the lead in two of the three,” Farrell said. “Given some uncertainties with the rotation, he's stepped in and solidifies things through three starts. When you watch him on the mound, it's almost like he's been here for a lot longer than three starts and any time you can go through a turn in the rotation and have six, seven innings each time he walks out there, regardless of the track record or inexperience, it is a sign of stability.”