There were no rookie jitters this time around.
Brandon Workman, who provided a mixed bag while pitching in relief during his major league debut in Seattle on Wednesday, was called upon to start Sunday’s series finale in Oakland. The 24-year-old made the most of his opportunity.
Workman carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Athletics before Coco Crisp broke it up with an infield single. Dustin Pedroia made a fantastic diving stop on a ground ball up the middle, but Crisp was simply too fast for Pedroia to record the out.
Unfortunately for Workman and the Red Sox, Crisp’s single was soon followed by a game-tying, two-run homer and, eventually, a 3-2, 11-inning loss. But despite the end result, it’s hard not to be encouraged by the overall effort turned in by the rookie. Workman rolled through the A’s lineup twice before things unraveled in the seventh, demonstrating a number of positives along the way.
The right-hander needed just 40 pitches to get through the first three innings, during which he fanned three hitters. His first minor hiccup came in the fourth inning, when he issued a one-out, 10-pitch walk to John Jaso, who had actually fallen behind in the count, 0-2. That free pass could have crept into Workman’s psyche as he moved forward, but he instead brushed it off and kept cruising along.
Josh Donaldson, who eventually played the role of hero, followed Jaso’s lengthy at-bat in the fourth with a 10-pitch battle of his own. Only this time, Workman picked up a strikeout with a fastball on the outside corner, and Ryan Lavarnway threw down to second base to nail Jaso, who was running with the count full. Workman retired six straight from there, and he entered the seventh inning having faced the minimum 18 batters while throwing just 88 pitches.
Workman ended up walking off the mound in a tie game with one out in the seventh inning after Donaldson tattooed his 16th home run of the season to center field. It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise fantastic outing. The young righty surrendered just the two runs on two hits while striking out five and walking one in 6 1/3 innings.
So what’s next for Workman?
Well, the Red Sox are hopeful that Clay Buchholz won’t be out too much longer, thus lessening the need for a starter. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Workman get another start after the All-Star break, though, and, at the very least, he showed that he’s capable of stepping in on a moment’s notice.
There’s also a chance that Workman could earn a major league role even after Buchholz returns. Workman was touched up in the first inning of his relief appearance in Seattle on Wednesday, but he settled down in the second frame, and he has the tools necessary to be a solid reliever. He warms up quickly, he throws strikes and he has swing-and-miss stuff.
Workman figures to become a staple in the Red Sox’ rotation at some point in the future. On Sunday, the rookie gave the Red Sox reason to believe that he also fits into their 2013 plans, regardless of his exact role.