PORTLAND — Last season, Brandon Workman was named the Boston Red Sox organization’s minor league pitcher of the year.
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound righthander was 10-8 with a 3.50 earned run average between Class A Salem of the Carolina League (7-7, 3.40) and Portland of the Double-A Eastern League (3-1, 3.96). He struck out 130 and walked only 25 in 138 2/3 innings. Batters hit .245 against him.
He has taken his game to another level this season with the Sea Dogs.
Through his first six games, he has compiled a 4-0 record and a 2.80 ERA for Portland. In 35 1/3 innings, he has allowed only 21 hits with 42 strikeouts and eight walks.
“He has a number of strengths,” said Sea Dogs pitching coach Bob Kipper. “There is his physicality. He is a big, strong kid. He is athletic. He has the perfect makeup for a pitcher. He is very intense and aggressive.”
Kipper also said Workman has a great work ethic and mound presence.
Workman’s fastball, which ranges from 93 to 96 mph, drives his success.
“He throws it at a very impressive angle and it has explosive [late] life,” said Kipper. “And he commands it fairly well.”
He also has a late-breaking curve, a cut fastball which complements his fastball extremely well, and Kipper said Workman continues to make steady progress with his changeup.
The cut fastball looks like a fastball but is approximately 4 mph slower than a four-seam fastball and it breaks very late toward the pitcher’s glove side.
“I feel I’m off to a pretty good start this year,” said Workman, who was born in Bowie, Texas, and spent three years pitching for the University of Texas.
“I’ve had command of my fastball and I’ve been getting ahead of hitters [in the count],” he said.
His cut fastball was a great pitch for him in college and helped him post a 12-2 record and a 3.35 ERA during his junior year at Texas. He was chosen in the second round by the Red Sox after that season and signed for a reported $800,000 bonus.
The Red Sox organization encouraged him to put his cutter on the back burner so he could develop his curve and changeup.
Workman feels it was the right decision as he has developed confidence in all four pitches.
“I feel I can now throw all four pitches [in just about any situation],” he said.
The changeup was the most challenging pitch to master because it requires the pitcher to deliver it with the same arm speed and motion as the fastball although it is 8-10 mph slower.
“It was difficult. But I worked with my pitching coaches,” said Workman. “I’m hoping to be able to throw it more and more as the season progresses.”
“The changeup could be a real weapon for him,” said Kipper.
Workman was drafted in the third round out of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies but elected to go to Texas instead.
“I wanted to sign out of high school but the financial part didn’t work out so I went to Texas,” said the 24-year-old Workman. “Going to Texas was a great decision for me. In my three years, I matured as a pitcher and as a person. So I was in a better place when I started playing pro ball.”
He pitched in the College World Series in Omaha his sophomore year and called it an “unbelievable experience” thanks to the crowds and atmosphere.
He also spent two summers pitching in the prestigious Cape Cod League and said he met a lot of nice people and got to pitch against some of the country’s best young hitters.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Workman, who enjoyed pitching against hitters using wooden bats as opposed to the aluminum bats used in college baseball.
“It was a big difference,” said Workman who also enjoys pitching in Portland.
Kipper said one of the biggest areas of improvement for Workman has been his ability to limit the opponents’ running game by “varying” his delivery to the plate and developing his pickoff move.
His unpredictability has kept runners guessing instead of allowing them to feast off a similar routine.
“I worked hard on it this spring. It’s a big part of the game,” said Workman. “I need to get better at it.”