FORT MYERS, Fla. — The big-name pitching prospects were busy Thursday. Matt Barnes pitched in a minor league game up the road in Port Charlotte and Anthony Ranaudo gave an interview to a reporter from mlb.com.
Meanwhile, Brandon Workman, 24, stood behind a backstop at the Red Sox spring complex in complete anonymity. He wore what all minor league pitchers wear on their afternoon off — blue Red Sox T-shirt and blue athletic shorts.
But don’t think Workman, 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, is going unnoticed. He will be in Portland in less than two weeks for the start of the Sea Dogs season, along with Barnes and Ranaudo.
Who of the three pitchers will make it to the majors first? Workman may be the frontrunner.
The Red Sox are going to get a glance at Workman this Sunday when he starts a major league spring training game against the Phillies.
“He is a guy that is making very good progress in his career,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “You look back in every spring training. There is one of these type of starts late in camp — whether it was Buchholz or Doubront.
Clay Buchholz. Felix Doubront. Workman is keeping good company.
It is interesting that Workman will pitch against the Phillies. Had the Phillies been willing to spend $75,000 more, Workman might be pitching for them on Sunday.
Workman was a third-round draft pick out of high school by Philadelphia in 2007. Pitching for small Bowie (Texas) High, about 90 miles northwest of Dallas, Workman struck out 171 batters in 76 innings his senior season — that’s 2.25 strikeouts an inning. He attracted the scouts in droves.
“It was real exciting,” said Workman. He had a scholarship in hand to the University of Texas, but was looking to go pro.
“I wanted to, but it didn’t work out financially.”
According to Baseball America, Workman was asking for $350,000 and the Phillies would only go to $275,000.
“Looking back at it, it was a great decision for me to go to college,” Workman said. “I wasn’t ready to come into pro ball as a 19-year-old.”
At powerhouse Texas, Workman was the No. 3 pitcher for the Longhorns, but it was a strong trio, including future draft picks Taylor Jungmann (Brewers) and Cole Green (Reds).
Workman went 12-2 in 104 2/3 innings his junior year and was drafted by the Red Sox in the second round (57th overall) of the 2010 draft. He signed for $800,000.
Boston drafted three players ahead of Workman, including the touted Ranaudo. In 2011, Barnes was drafted in the first round. Workman has been in their shadows.
But Workman has been a, um, workhorse. He pitched 131 innings his rookie season in 2011 for low Class A Greenville (3.71 ERA). Last year, he pitched 139 innings — 104 for advanced Class A Salem and 25 for Portland.
With the Sea Dogs, Workman was 3-1 (3.96) in five starts. He struck out 23 and walked five.
Boston named Workman its minor league pitcher of the year.
“A good year,” Workman said. “I thought I made some strides in areas I needed to work on — consistency, better fastball command and developing my off speed stuff.”
His mid-90′s fastball has always been Workman’s marquee pitch, along with a cut fastball. Now the arsenal is improving.
“My curveball has been very good, sharp this spring,” Workman said. “The change-up is as good as it’s ever been.”
Everything looks promising. He pitches with the major leaguers on Sunday. If his progress continues, Workman may re-join them later this season.
Kevin Thomas — 791-6411