BOSTON -- The business of baseball can be downright nasty.
Red Sox pitcher Brandon Workman learned that lesson Tuesday night. After the Texas Rangers dismissed the Sox, 10-7, at Fenway Park, the right-handed reliever was called into manager John Farrell’s office.
Sitting behind closed doors, Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington informed Workman he was being sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket in order to make a roster spot for fellow reliever Craig Breslow, who will be activated from the disabled list on Wednesday.
“Breslow is coming back and Breslow obviously deserves a spot here, so that’s the way it goes,” Workman said.
The left-handed Breslow was placed on the DL with a shoulder strain following spring training. He made three rehab appearances for the PawSox and was in the clubhouse at Fenway Park prior to Tuesday’s game.
The decision to send Workman to Pawtucket has nothing to do with his performance; it’s simply a numbers game.
On Tuesday, the 25-year-old reliever was outstanding in four innings of work against the Rangers. He entered the game in the top of the sixth inning and was lights out, allowing one run on two hits, with zero walks and three strikeouts. He tossed 50 pitches, 39 for strikes.
After retiring the first nine batters he faced, Workman allowed a leadoff double to Jim Adduci in the ninth. Later in the inning, Texas added a sacrifice fly for the only run Workman allowed.
“Pitched very well, very effective,” Farrell said of Workman. “Threw pitches for strikes, he attacks the strike zone, pitches ahead. Some swing and miss to his fastball. Just a solid four innings here tonight.”
Workman’s closed-door meeting with Farrell and Cherington was brief. When Workman returned to his locker, other members of Boston’s pitching staff were waiting, offering handshakes and well wishes.
“Obviously, it’s not ideal but I understand what they’re doing and that’s part of it,” Workman said. “I just have to keep working. There’s not much else to do, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Part of the plan for Workman is to return to the starting rotation for the PawSox. In only his fourth pro season, he earned a spot on the Opening Day roster for the first time this season. Last season, he pitched for Double-A Portland, Pawtucket and the Red Sox. He appeared as both a starter and reliever for Boston in 2013.
Workman was impressive in the postseason too, and helped the Red Sox win the World Series. Farrell was comfortable putting the young reliever into any situation. Workman appeared in seven postseason games, posting an 0-1 record with a 0.00 ERA. He allowed one unearned run in 8 2/3 innings of work.
“In the postseason, I threw the ball well and have up until this point,” he said. “The plan is for me to be stretched out, so that’s what we’re doing.”
“He’s going to be back,” Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “He’s got all the pitches to be a big league pitcher for a long time. He’s big and strong. He’s got velocity. He’s got breaking balls. He’s got a changeup he can throw. So you just tell him to go down there and be ready for the next time he comes up because something always happens, you never go through a season with only 25 guys. If something happens, he’ll be back here rather quickly.”
On Tuesday, Workman was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise tough game for the Red Sox.
“He’s was great,” Pierzynski said. “Coming in in that situation, he gave us four solid innings. He gave up the run in the last inning but he almost got out of it without giving up anything. He did great.
“The one thing about Work, he’s going to throw it over the plate and he’s not afraid. He gets the ball and works fast. He throws three or four different pitches over the plate that all have the ability to get hitters out. I’m proud of the work Workman did.”
Red Sox starter Felix Doubront wasn’t as nearly effective. It was the left-hander’s shortest outing of his career as he lasted only 2 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on six hits. After the game, he was clearly disappointed with his outing, but was appreciative of the job done by Workman.
“He backed me up really good,” Doubront said. “He threw the ball well and I felt bad for him to put him in that position to throw more than two innings. He handled it well and did a great job.”
Doubront dealt with trips back and forth to the minors earlier in his career, playing a similar role as Workman is now. The two talked after Tuesday’s game and Doubront gave Workman some advice, telling him to stay focused because his services will be needed again soon.
Numerous times during spring training, Farrell discussed the depth of young arms in the organization. Workman was always part of that conversation. With a 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame, along with an arsenal of effective pitches and velocity, Workman should become a mainstay on Boston’s pitching staff soon.
His stay in Pawtucket likely will be brief. He’ll continue to hone his skills as a starter, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept his assignment to the minors.
“That’s just part of it,” Workman said. “They said they wanted me to keep being stretched out. That’s just the way it goes.”