Brandon Workman was both a starter and a reliever for the 2013 Red Sox, and it appears as if his role as whatever the Sox need him for is going to continue into 2014. According to manager John Farrell, speaking in a WEEI appearance on Wednesday, Workman is currently slated to be in the bullpen, even if that's not where Boston necessarily envisions him in the end:
When you think that he started last year in Double-A and think that he pitched the eighth inning of the World Series, pretty remarkable progression. Given where we are with six competent and established major league starters, he probably sees himself and we see him in the bullpen right now. He's unique in that he can do both. I still see him, because of the physical presence and the durability, you project him as a starter. But still, he's contributing out of the bullpen. If that's the case for the first part of the year or throughout next year, we know we've got a very good pitcher on our hands.
Let's break that down a bit. The Red Sox are confident in Workman as a reliever right now, and plan to use him there as things stand. If they add another right-handed relief option to the mix, however, that could open things up for a return to Triple-A Pawtucket for Workman, where he can continue to start and remain stretched out for the moment there is a need at the major-league level. In the long run, they see him as a starter, taking over one of the many spots that will open up over the course of the next couple of years, but if he has to stick in the bullpen for 2014 because that's where the need is, then so be it: at least he gets to be a productive big-league pitcher for a contending team.
There would be room for Workman at Pawtucket, as Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, and Steven Wright currently make up the rotation there. Rubby De La Rosa is very likely converting to relief after a failure to bring his workload up despite a significant gap between 2013 and his 2011 Tommy John surgery, and Henry Owens will need to spend some more time in Double-A before he gets pushed any further, if for no other reason than the Sox have a logjam in Rhode Island as is.
Workman does profile as a late-inning reliever, but at the same time, you don't have to squint to see a future as a reliable major-league starting pitcher. As Farrell says, Workman is built like a starter you expect to get 200 innings out of, so even if they end up being average innings compared to high-quality relief frames, there is a lot to be said about his value to a rotation -- look no further than the fact that arms like those of Jason Vargas are pulling in four-year deals for $8 million per year, or that Ricky Nolasco just earned what can be a lucrative five-year deal from the Twins should he remain as healthy as he's managed to this point.