Larry Kolvoord/Austin American-Statesman
During Augie Garrido’s 13-year tenure at the University of Texas, four Longhorns pitchers have been selected in the top 40 picks of the MLB Draft. The 2009 Texas staff has a handful of pitchers that could be joining that group over the next few years. Perhaps the most talented of the group – and maybe the most talented pitcher Garrido has coached at Texas – is sophomore Brandon Workman.
Beau Hale is currently the highest-drafted Longhorn hurler under Garrido, going 14th overall in the 2000 draft. But if Workman reaches his potential, he could be a top 10 pick.
And so far, Workman is doing just fine.
Workman posted a 5-2 record with a 5.06 ERA in 53.1 innings last season. He surrendered 58 hits, walked 20 and struck out 49. While the freshman showed potential – and his velocity was excellent – he often struggled with command, leaving his fastball up in the zone and losing the feel for his breaking ball.
Following a good – but not great – freshman campaign, Workman went to the Cape Cod League and totaled 55 innings in nine starts. Pitching in the prestigious wood bat league, he had a 3.44 ERA, struck out 67 and walked just 14.
“Every day you’re facing real good hitters,” said Workman of his experience in the Cape. “It was good because you had to be on top of your game every single time out – otherwise you weren’t going to do well. It helped me stay focused on locating pitches and things like that.”
After improving his fastball command over the summer, Workman returned to Austin looking to take yet another step forward. Although he has the ability to dial his fastball into the mid-90s, Workman’s 7.07 ERA in Big 12 games last season taught him that good college hitters can catch up to belt-high heat.
Despite his outstanding stuff, Workman wasn’t picked until the third round out of high school in part due to his inconsistent mechanics. Longhorns pitching coach Skip Johnson has made mechanics a primary focus for Workman, and all of the adjustments have been designed on helping him keep the ball low in the strike zone.
“Skip has worked a lot with my mechanics,” Workman said. “He has got me more efficient on the mound. It has really made a big difference on my ability to consistently locate my pitches.
“We’ve worked on finishing better. We’ve worked on a lot of stuff. We have worked on staying tall on my back side and stuff like that – and finishing through the target.”
Two starts into the 2009 season, Workman’s efforts appear to be paying off. The Bowie, Tx., native has surrendered just two hits while walking two and fanning 17 in 16 scoreless innings.
“I think I’ve done real well,” replied Workman when asked about his season thus far. “I have gotten good results, and I feel that I’ve done real well locating pitches and staying down in the zone.”
As the ‘Horns go into this weekend’s series against the Stanford Cardinal, Workman is coming off his best collegiate outing. The hurler fired a no-hitter last Sunday against Penn State, and he faced the minimum 27 batters in that contest. It was the third no-hitter of Workman’s life.
|Workman fired a no-hitter last Sunday.
“It was real exciting,” he said. “It was an awesome feeling. I’ve never done that at this level, so it was a new experience for me.”
Another reason for Workman’s early success this season has been his breaking ball. Though Workman technically has four pitches in his arsenal, he typically only relies on his fastball [which has been between 88-96 mph this season] and his big-breaking curveball. After struggling with his curve last season, Workman says the pitch is much more consistent this year.
“I kind of lost the feel for [my curveball] last year, and that hurt a lot,” said the 20-year-old. “I’ve got a real good feel for it now. I can throw it for strikes, and that is really helping me to stay ahead of hitters and keep them off-balance.”
Workman’s curveball has certainly been a plus pitch in his first two starts, but there aren’t many successful big league starting pitchers with just two reliable offerings. Because of that, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Workman recently began using a slider. He didn’t throw the pitch in last Sunday’s contest, but Workman hopes to use it more often later in the year.
“Hopefully I can get better and more consistent with [the slider],” he said. “I don’t have a real good feel for it, so I don’t throw it as much right now. But hopefully as the year goes on, I will get more of a feel for the pitch and can throw it more often.”
If Workman continues to show strong command of a low-90s fastball and a plus 12-to-6 curveball, he’ll have no problem succeeding in the college ranks – and that’s all that matters for the time being.
Even though the Texas coaching staff has yet to set a starting rotation for this weekend’s series in Palo Alto, Workman will almost certainly be starting one of the three games. The fireballer claims he won’t let last Sunday’s masterful performance add any extra pressure.
“It’s not like I was going out there with the mindset that I was going to throw a no-hitter,” Workman said. “I was just going out there one batter at a time, just trying to get guys out. That is going to continue to be my mindset. Hopefully I can do it as well as I did last week.”