Red Sox prospect Brandon Workman is making a habit of getting off to quick starts.
Last year with Class A Advanced Salem, he didn't suffer his first loss until May 9. When he was promoted to Double-A Portland in August, he started 3-0. Back in the Eastern League, he's dominating again early this season.
The Red Sox's No. 13 prospect retired the first 18 batters Tuesday night before Albert Cartwright broke up his perfect game with a leadoff double in the seventh inning.
Workman (4-0) ended up allowing a run on two hits and a walk with six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings as the Sea Dogs defeated the Reading Fightin Phils, 5-3. He threw 59 of 84 pitches for strikes, registered 16 first-pitch strikes and reached 96 mph with a fastball that consistently sat around 93.
"I saw a dominant performance out of Brandon Workman," Portland pitching coach Bob Kipper said. "He's been really good as of late. He's been good for the early part of this season leading up to, and through, tonight.
"Brandon Workman's success is governed by his ability to command his fastball. He angled it through the bottom of the zone with late, explosive life. He also introduced and maintained a good curveball-cutter-changeup mix. He used all of his pitches effectively."
The 24-year-old right-hander is the 12th Minor Leaguer to reach four wins this year and the sixth pitcher (fourth starter) to begin 4-0. Binghamton's Logan Verrett is the only other Eastern League pitcher with four wins.
Selected in the second round of the 2010 Draft out of the University of Texas, Workman cruised through six frames, inducing eight fly balls, three popups, two ground balls and a line drive.
Cartwright broke up the bid for perfection when he pulled a 1-2 offering down the left-field line leading off the seventh. Workman struck out Troy Hanzawa and Zach Collier, but Cartwright stole third base, Jim Murphy walked and Tyler Henson doubled home a run.
"It was a 1-2 fastball," Kipper said of Cartwright's double. "They were attempting to expand up in the zone and it became a hittable pitch. He put a good swing on it. It probably wasn't the pitch [Workman] was looking for or the location he was looking for.
"He had thrown 20 pitches in that inning and that was the most he had thrown in any inning. If it was 20 in the first inning, you keep rolling. But 20 in the seventh and you think maybe he's turning the corner and you want to take him out of the game."
The outing lowered Workman' ERA to 2.73. He leads the league with a 0.71 WHIP, having allowed 15 hits and six walks over 29 2/3 innings.
Last year, Workman led the Carolina League in fewest baserunners per nine innings (9.9) 2012 while ranking second with a 1.09 WHIP and fourth with a 3.40 ERA. He made five Eastern League starts, going 3-1 with a 3.96 ERA.
"It didn't really factor in the ballgame tonight, but we've been working on his ability to deliver the ball out of the stretch quicker," Kipper said. "When we got him in August, his time to the plate was a little on the slow side. We see the culture of the game is changing and that stolen bases are becoming more prevalent. Speed produces runs and we want to help our pitchers control the running game. We want to make him more timely without compromising his delivery."
Daniel Bard followed Workman and allowed two runs on two hits and a walk while retiring two batters. Brock Huntzinger struck out two over 1 2/3 one-hit innings to earn his fifth save.
Reading starter Seth Rosin (1-2) yielded three runs -- one earned -- on five hits while striking out three over seven innings.