From World Series to first MLB camp, Workman ready

From World Series to first MLB camp, Workman ready
February 17, 2014, 10:00 pm
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(USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Brandon Workman is doing this all backwards.

Last October, he was part of the Red Sox roster which won the 2013 World Series, with Workman getting some key outs as a member of the bullpen.

Now, four months later, he's attending his first major league spring training camp, having reported to minor league camp a year ago.

"I guess I kind of got out of order on some things," said Workman, smiling at the thought. "But it worked out pretty well. I'm happy."

Workman did get one opportunity last spring when the Red Sox needed a starter for a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Sox tabbed Workman, who was in minor league camp, to take a look at how he'd do in that environment.

"I was talking to Torey (Lovullo, bench coach) today," said Workman, "and he said (that game) was their way of simulating a call-up (from the minors during the season). A lot of the same feelings and nerves were there both times, so I thought was a great way to ease into what it's going to feel like for me."

Now that Workman is part of his first major league camp, things are changing -- and quickly.

Before the weekend, he was part of the Red Sox' depth group, behind six major league established starters. But the decision by Ryan Dempster to not pitch this season has elevated him on the team's depth chart.

If something happens to one of the first five starters -- either injury or performance issues -- Workman is the next man up.

Still, he said Monday that doesn't change what he's doing to get ready.

"I don't think so, honestly," said Workman. "I kind of was going into this spring just (trying to) perform the best I can when given the opportunity and that whatever role I fall into after that, it's out of my hands if he handled the throwing part of it. So that didn't change anything.

"When you look at it like that, I guess that's the case. But it still doesn't change anything I'm trying to do. I'm still going to go out there whenever they tell me to and throw the best I can, whatever role that is. That's all I can control, so that's all I'm going to worry about."

"(Even before Dempster's decision) we had every intent to condition him in spring training as a starter," said John Farrell. "Despite having pitched a number of games out of the bullpen last year, he's trained and gotten ready for every season as a starter and we don't want to just change that. We can always pull him back late in camp if that's what the role calls for, but we're going to condition him as a starter."

Workman was promoted to the big leagues in the second half of the season after the Red Sox surveyed the market and determined that the cost for bullpen help was too steep.

Rather than give up a promising starting pitching prospect, the Sox thought, why not have one of those starters temporarily convert to the bullpen.

Workman made the transition seamlessly, reinforcing the wisdom of the Red Sox' decision. He hadn't pitched in relief since college, but he took to the change well.

It's a little bit of a different mindset," he said, "as far as the preparation to it. But on the mound, I feel it's very similar. I'm still trying to attack hitters in either role and work ahead in counts and put guys away when I have the opportunity and I feel like whether it's the first inning or the sixth, seventh or eighth inning, it's the same approach when I'm on the mound.

"It's just the preparation going into it that's a little different."

Workman made 17 appearances out of the bullpen in the regular season, compiling a 2.64 ERA. He then earned a spot on the post-season roster and was Farrell's choice to pitch the next-to-last inning of the last game of the season, a sign of the confidence the Sox had in him.

"He earned a lot of trust in the short term time that he was here last year," said Farrell. "To think that he started the year at (Double A) Portland and then he goes out on the mound in the eighth inning of the World Series, says a lot about Brandon and his emotional control, above and beyond his physical abilities."

For Workman, the whole experience was mind-blowing. From Double A at the start of the year to bullpen stopper in the World Series.

Was it surreal?

"Yes, 100 percent," said Workman. "To reach a dream of reaching major league baseball and then to throw the World Series on top of that, too . . . it was an unbelievable experience. It was surreal for half the off-season, it seemed like. It took that long to sink in for me."

Now, it begins again, this time with Workman in big league camp from the start.

"Being here from Day 1," he said, "it makes you feel like you're more a part of it and not just coming in to help out."