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May 2, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Workman shuts down Wilmington in victory

Brandon Workman (Kelly O'Connor)
WILMINGTON, Del. -- Salem right-hander Brandon Workman allowed just one earned run on three hits, walked none and struck out six in 6.0 innings of work in Salem’s 2-1 win over Wilmington (KC).

“He had a live fastball, using both sides of the plate, and got into a groove early and stayed in a groove,” pitching coach Kevin Walker said after the game. “The only damage he gave up was the solo home run, but he didn’t let it affect him. He just kept pounding the zone.”

Workman threw strikes early and often in an efficient outing for the Red Sox. Just one of the 19 batters Workman faced saw a three-ball count, and the Texas product delivered first-pitch strikes to 10 of them. His fastball, which began the evening at 93-94 mph, reached 95 mph consistently later in the outing and topped out several times at 96 mph, was easily Workman’s most effective pitch Wednesday. Thirty-six of the 53 strikes Workman threw were on his fastball, which showed late life and was tough for hitters to square up.

Workman also featured a cut fastball that sat in the low-80s and a high-70s curveball, both of which he was able to get over for strikes in fastball counts and use effectively throughout at-bats.

“His breaking ball tonight was really good,” Walker said.

He allowed a leadoff single to second baseman Whit Merrifield, who was sacrificed over on a bunt by the next batter before he was doubled up on a lineout to end the frame. Workman threw just eight pitches in the first, one of three innings with ten pitches or less on the game.

The second inning was Workman’s longest of the evening, thanks in part to a seven-pitch at-bat by first baseman Bryan Fletcher that ended when a Workman cutter coaxed a ground ball. The next batter, Brett Eibner, deposited a 1-1 cutter that caught too much of the plate over the left-field wall to cut the Salem lead to 2-1. But Workman got out of the inning with an elevated 95 mph fastball for his first strikeout of the night.

After the homerun, Workman settled into a groove and faced the minimum in each of his final four frames. He caught catcher Kenny Swab looking at a 78 mph curveball for his second strikeout of the evening to open the third, and picked up another strikeout on another 95 mph heater on the outside corner.

Workman helped his own cause in the fourth, leaping high off the mound to snag a chopper for the first out of the inning. He needed just eight pitches to get out of the inning, which was punctuated by a 96 mph fastball on the outside edge for a called third strike to Fletcher.

Workman retired the first two batters of the fifth to set down his ninth and tenth batters in a row before a broken bat single by right fielder Guelin Beltre. Beltre was caught stealing by catcher Carson Blair to retire the side.

He retired the side in order in the sixth on ten pitches, elevating a 95 mph fastball to pick up his fifth strikeout of the game to Swab to open the inning. After coaxing his sixth and final groundout of the game from the next batter, Workman punctuated his evening by getting Merrifield to fan on a 78 mph curveball.

Outside of his fastball, Workman and Walker both felt good about the Workman’s cutter. Workman said he was told not to use the pitch until the last two months of last season in order to develop his curveball and begin to work in a changeup. “Once they felt I had done that, they allowed me to throw my cutter again,” Workman said. “That really helped me because it helps me get bad contact early in counts and lets me throw deeper into games, keeping my pitch count down.”

In college, Workman said he used the pitch as a “crutch” when his curveball wasn’t working, but both his curve and changeup have improved with the repetition from last year. Walker said he doesn’t see any reason why the pitch can’t remain in his repertoire.

Blair was behind the plate for Workman, who improved to 2-0 with a 2.76 ERA. He said Workman was “able to just control hitters and do whatever he wanted with his off-speed [pitches].”

“He was pretty dominant,” Blair said.

“Right now, he’s doing a very good job of pounding the zone with the fastball, mixing in the curveball and the change, and we’re going to keep building from there,” Walker said.