Brandon Workman Placed On DL

Brandon Workman

The plan for Brandon Workman this off-season was to focus on just relieving for the first time in his career. After being a starter for much of his time in the minor leagues, the Red Sox with many young starters coming up through the system felt relieving is the best fit for Workman, this time around. After struggling last season with velocity, early this spring his velocity was up a tick with shorter outings.

Before even throwing an official pitch this season Workman was diagnosed with a right elbow strain and was placed on the disabled list Saturday. Not exactly how Workman and the Red Sox pictured his season starting. Brandon WorkmanThe minor leagues have a disabled list of seven days, but it has not been announced how long Workman is expected to be out. Workman was one of the last cuts in a battle for the last two bullpen spots that eventually went to Robbie Ross Jr. and Tommy Layne, one of which will likely be sent to Pawtucket on Monday, with Koji Uehara likely being activated from the disabled list, in time for the home opener.

Workman’s experience in the 2013 playoffs had many thinking, myself included he could have been groomed as a potential closer. Heath Hembree and Zeke Spruill picked up saves in the PawSox first two games of the season in Lehigh Valley. With Workman on the disabled list look for those two to get their opportunities in the closer role for the PawSox.

Early injuries happen to many teams, as the Red Sox opened the season with Joe Kelly and Koji Uehara on the disabled list. You could say it had an effect on the bullpen already, as Edward Mujica blew his first save opportunity Friday night. Ironically, Steven Wright, who took Kelly’s initial roster spot got the win in the 19 inning marathon pitching 5 innings in relief. As the Red Sox get their closer back for the home opener, a key component to the PawSox bullpen will be spending time on the shelf.

A Switch to Relief is a Relief for Brandon Workman

Brandon Workman

Unable to capitalize on the opportunity at hand this spring, PawSox pitcher Brandon Workman hopes to get back to the Majors in a timely fashion.
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This year, for the first time in his career, he will serve as a full-time reliever after making 15 starts for the big league club last season.

“Yeah, you know, that’s my role for the season—being used out of the pen—and I’m excited to get brandon workmanto work,” he said. “(I’m) excited to get this thing started up and see where we go from there.”

Some saw the move coming from a mile away and many were surprised that the move did not come a year earlier— after he tossed 8.1 scoreless frames for the Red Sox in the 2013 post season. With high hopes the team tried Workman out as a starter last year, but the results were not great.
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He went 1-10 with a 5.17 ERA in 19 appearances (15 starts) and although he was not a standout, he was not a 1-10 pitcher. He had some outings where the team should have won or where they could have won, but it just did not happen for him. As a result, his WAR suffered— finishing the year at -1.1.

“Last year was a frustrating year for me on a lot of different fronts,” said Workman. “I came out of the beginning part of the year, throwing real well, but things really tailed off for me in the summer. Like you said, there were times when I threw the ball well later in the summer. Things didn’t work out all the time, but that’s part of baseball. I took my share of losses when I didn’t throw the ball well. I got a lot of the tough luck out of the way, but I’m set up for a strong year this year.”

In his big league career, Workman owns a 6.07 ERA in 21 regular season games as a reliever. Knowing that he pitches well at times and poorly at others, Workman’s goal for this year reflects that.
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“Working on bringing some consistency to the table,” he added. “Like you said, there were some times when I threw the ball well, but there were times I didn’t and I’m trying to get myself in a position where I can consistently perform on a day-in day-out basis over the course of this season.”

A starter not too long ago, it is fair to say that Workman might have a little bit more stamina than many other relievers. With that in mind PawSox manager Kevin Boles makes it clear that Workman will not be a one inning guy in AAA this year.
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“We really don’t have too many one inning guys,” Boles said. “I mean as far as development goes, we usually have guys who will go one and then parts of an inning.”

Koji Uehara Is a Question Mark This Season

koji uehara

One of the first moves the Red Sox made this off-season was resigning closer Koji Uehara before he hit the free agent market. He likely could have gotten more money if he hit the open market—after seeing the contracts that Andrew Miller, Luke Gregerson, and David Robertson received. Although all three of those pitchers are not entering their age 40 season.

Uehara will turn 40 on April 5th and whether he is on the roster the next day for OpeningKoji Uehara Day in Philadelphia remains to be seen. It was labeled as a “close call” just Wednesday after it was reported Uehara has suffered a hamstring strain. Hamstring strains for pitchers are not easy to recover from, as their legs are important—especially for Uehara who doesn’t hit the upper 90’s on the gun anymore. This is also not the first time he has suffered a strain of his hamstring, as he missed two months in 2010 while with the Orioles.

To replicate his great 2013 second half run many thought Uehara would have to drink from the fountain of youth. The first half of last season it seemed Uehara made a trip to that fountain, as he continued his great run earning a trip to the All-Star Game for the first time. As the Red Sox fell out of contention, Uehara became victim to the home run and was even shut down for a time. He arrived at spring training talking about how he suffered through an injury last season that may have effected his play, but did not disclose the injury. Now with a hamstring strain many Sox fans have to wonder: will he be on the roster in Philadelphia and, if he is on the roster, will he be effective?

In 3 games of Grapefruit League action, Uehara has given up 2 runs on 7 hits in just 3 innings of work. Some may say spring statistics do not matter, but it is always nice to see a pitcher give up less hits than innings pitched. The growing concern could be that Uehara is not recovered, thus resulting in poor performance on the mound. If the Sox want him to be an important piece across the season, he cannot be rushed back.

Closing option one with Uehara out is Edward Mujica, who had a tough first half last season in his first in the American League, but had a solid second half of the season. John Farrell has said he will be closer “B.” A pitcher to keep an eye on is Alexei Ogando, who the Red Sox brought in after being non-tendered by Texas. Ogando has been injured for much of the past two seasons, but has been better out of the bullpen in his career. He is a two pitch pitcher, featuring a live fastball and an above average slider. Junichi Tazawa seems to be best in a set-up role, so he might not get many save opportunities. The trickle down affect of this Uehara injury could open up a bullpen spot for either Brandon Workman or Matt Barnes to start the year. One thing is for certain, the starting rotation is not the only question mark going into the season as Koji Uehara has now been added to the list.

Matt Barnes Likely Next Man Up If Starter Goes Down

matt  barnes

This winter the Red Sox made some moves to their pitching staff that signaled they were moving onto the next wave of pitching prospects. Besides not being able to retain Jon Lester, gone are Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo. De La Rosa and Webster were sent to Arizona in the Wade Milley trade, while Ranaudo was sent to Texas for Robbie Ross.

Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and Eduardo Rodriguez are the next wave of pitching Matt Barnesprospects the Red Sox have, and are all left handed, highly valued in today’s game. We are not going to argue about who has the most potential as the Red Sox hope all three lefties pan out. The one holdover from the Pawtucket Red Sox rotation from last season is Matt Barnes.

Barnes, 6’4 210 pounds out of the University of Connecticut throws hard and has been a starter since the Red Sox drafted him in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft. There has been talk of Barnes converting to a reliever this season and even cracking the opening day roster out of the ‘pen. However with Alexei Ogando and Robbie Ross Jr. likely ahead of Barnes of the depth chart, he may start the season in AAA Pawtucket and be ready for the call if a starter should go down.

Not many teams have all five starters make 30 starts in a season. The Rangers are already experiencing problems with Yu Darvish likely missing the year because of the Tommy John Surgery. The Blue Jays will be without Marcus Stroman for the season after he torn his MCL during fielding drills. And just yesterday the against the Red Sox, Yankees starter Chris Capuano strained his quad running to cover first base. Rotation depth is something you need in baseball to make it to October.

Barnes made his major league debut last season after the minor league season ended. He appeared in 5 games for the Sox tossing 9 innings, while giving up 4 runs. So far this spring Barnes has appeared in 2 games, striking out 6 in 4 innings of work with only 2 hits allowed. The Sox could have used Barnes as a trade chip like they used Webster, De La Rosa, and Ranaudo, but they kept him– signaling he is still a part of the future.

A lot can happen in the three weeks left of spring training, but don’t be surprised if Matt Barnes does not make the team out of spring training. The value he has as a depth starter is huge and flip flopping him from starter to reliever might have an impact on him, like it did on Brandon Workman last season.

Drake Britton Sharp Despite Struggles in AAA

Drake BrittonIn 2013, Drake Britton did something new — he pitched in relief. After being called up from AAA Pawtucket having just one start under his belt, Britton found himself thrown into a pennant race.

Considerably speaking he was effective allowing nine runs on 21 innings of work while walking seven and fanning 17.

He just missed out on a spot in the playoffs and was left off the team in favor of righty Brandon Workman. Nevertheless, expectations were high for Britton who was slated to begin 2014 in Pawtucket.
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Realistically, 2014 was a bit of a disappointment for Drake Britton. He had never pitched a full season in relief, and it showed. At first it started off well as he posted a 1.29 ERA in 10 April outings for the Paw Sox totaling 14 innings, but it was all down hill from there.

For the Paw Sox, Britton walked more than he struck out (38-37), allowed eight home runs and posted a 5.86 ERA in 45 appearances totaling 58.1 innings. His last 9.1 innings of the year were scoreless, meaning his ERA peaked at 6.98 on August 16th.

Against lefties, Britton was much more effected, but still not perfect. They hit .276 off of him while he struck out 19 and walked just 10. Righties on the other hand posed a bit of a threat hitting .350 off him while he walked 28 and fanned just 18.
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His struggles in Pawtucket seemed to have no valid explanation. Sure, his control may have not been his best, but his stuff is impressive. Topping out at 95 mph on his fastball, the stuff is there which makes the circumstances of his struggles even tougher to explain.

In 2011, Britton posted a Carolina League worst 6.91 ERA in 26 starts, losing 13 games.

Despite his struggles in AAA, Britton has pitched effectively so far in the big leagues. In seven outings totaling 6.2 innings, hitters went 5-for-23 off the southpaw while he struck out four men and walked a pair.

Command does appear to be a bit of an issue for the 25-year-old Texas native, but he  recorded twenty outs without a problem in the bigs this year so it is not too big of an issue.
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Two things are clear when it comes to Drake Britton—he has a future with the Boston Red Sox and it is in the bullpen. Next year should be significantly better for him as he may potentially win a bullpen spot with a strong campaign for the rest of this season.

Surely, Britton is slated to begin next season in Pawtucket, but he may find himself as a full-time member of the Boston Red Sox bullpen by the end of the season.

Did We Over Value Brandon Workman?

Brandon WorkmanOn Sunday Brandon Workman was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket, and, in return, recently-acquired Heath Hembree was called up to the show. Undoubtedly, Workman was sent down due to failing to maintain consistency with the Red Sox’ rather inexperienced rotation — oh, sorry, forgot about Clay Buchholz.

It’s a sensible transaction, especially considering (if Boston’s smart) it’ll allow Anthony Ranaudo to rejoin the club’s pitching staff. It is, however,one that surprises a bit given his hype (notably surrounding his postseason success in ’13) coming into the year and Boston’s lack of urgency to make a change. After all, won’t Boston just inevitably call him up September 1st for MLB’s roster expansions? You couldn’t wait seven measly days?

Anyway, the logic behind the move is not what I wanted to discuss, rather, I’d like to dabble into the trickery small sample size success (especially in big-games) has on the masses opinion.

Yes, Workman was absolutely lights out for Boston in the postseason, not allowing a single run in eight and 2/3 innings pitched. In fact, he was so good I strongly contemplated purchasing a Brandon Workman World Series bobblehead — I went with a Xander Bogaerts one instead.

However good he may have been in such a short sample size, at least in my mind, it seems to have distorted his actual potential/value. I mean, the guy posted a 4.97 ERA with Boston last year, yet everyone was calling for him to be a part of the rotation before the season even commenced. His peripherals were respectable in ’13 in large part to his tremendous 10.15 K/9, but lurking next to that was an ugly 3.24 BB/9 that seemed to be ignored. Oh, and it’s not like Workman had ever produced such a terrific strikeout rate in the minor-leagues before, so, naturally, his K/9 probably would fall back down to earth the next season.

How much it would fall, admittedly, I didn’t see coming, and entering Monday it reads at just a 6.90 K/9. Sitting next to it on Fangraphs, is an even worse 3.45 BB/9. Such lackluster peripherals generally lead to runs being allowed at a high-rate, and that’s been the narrative for Workman, too. Through 73 innings of work the right-hander has sported a 4.93 ERA (and 4.58 FIP).

Don’t get me wrong; Brandon did perform well (not great) in the minors, but aside from his work in Pawtucket last season, which produced a 4.76 FIP but excellent 2.80 ERA, there’s no reason to believe he’ll be prosperous as a big-league starter. Maybe the bullpen is better suited for Workman. He certainly has two really good pitches in his cutter and curveball (or knucklecurve) and could thrive as a reliever.

Only time will tell, but for now Workman will (or should) focus on in Pawtucket what John Farrell requests he hone.