Brandon Workman wore a Phillies T-shirt Saturday afternoon, dressed in a Phillies clubhouse, and prepared to play in a Phillies game. Thirteen years earlier, he was drafted by the Phillies. And finally, Workman was on the team.
“I guess that’s the way it worked out,” Workman said. “It’s kind of cool, though.”
The Phillies acquired Workman on Friday night in a trade with Boston to bolster their bullpen, which entered Saturday with the worst ERA (7.97) in the major leagues. The right-hander won two World Series rings with the Red Sox and was their closer last season, when he was one of the American League’s most-reliable relievers.
He played 10 years in the Red Sox organization, a pro career that started by turning down the Phillies. They drafted Workman in the third round of the 2007 draft (107th overall) out of Bowie (Texas) High, but failed to dissuade him from attending the University of Texas.
Pat Gillick, then the Phillies general manager, went to Dallas a month after the draft to watch Workman, and area scout Paul Scott kept in touch. The team was “salivating” to land Workman, according to an Inquirer story. But the Phillies could not make it happen before the August deadline.
“It was definitely an exciting time,” Workman said. “It just didn’t work out financially, so I wanted to go to college, get a little bit of an education, and develop more as a ballplayer before I entered pro ball.”
Workman’s role is not yet defined, but it’s fair to assume that he’ll be asked to tackle high-leverage situations if he does not immediately get the closer’s role. He had a 1.88 ERA in 73 appearances last season, with 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He pairs a 93 MPH fastball with a curveball and cutter.
He pitched three seasons at Texas and was drafted by the Red Sox in the second round in 2010. Last year was Workman’s first full season in the big leagues, after undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2015. He spent the 2017 and 2018 season shuffling between triple A and the majors.
“The Tommy John rehab was a tough process for me,” Workman said. “I didn’t do the ’12-month comeback, throwing harder, and life’s good’ thing that some guys get to do. Mine was a multiyear grind to get back to throwing the ball like I want to. Last year was really nice to see the rewards for the work that I put in, to get back and be able to have success.”
Friday night, Workman was walking to the visitors’ bullpen in Baltimore when a team official told him to stop. He had been traded. Workman and teammate Heath Hembree, who also was dealt to the Phillies, grabbed their bags, took a private car to the airport, and flew commercial to Atlanta. Switching teams during a pandemic required a COVID-19 test at the ballpark. Everything was clear, and Workman, finally, joined the Phillies.