Red Sox prospects Brandon Workman and Bryce Brentz have become teammates for the third time at a third different Minor League level. And neither of them is complaining.
Workman wasn't thrilled after his Triple-A debut on Sunday, but Brentz had his back after a week of struggling at the plate.
Brentz came within a triple of hitting for the cycle and drove in four runs, while Workman allowed three runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings for the win as Pawtucket defeated Syracuse, 5-3, at NBT Bank Stadium.
"It wasn't my best start. I could've been a lot sharper," said Workman, who struck out four batters and walked three. "But this was a good way to start out here, something to build on and keep working from."
Brentz was selected 36th overall in the 2010 Draft out of Middle Tennessee State and Workman was taken one round later out of the University of Texas. They also played together at Class A Greenville and Double-A Portland in 2011 and 2012.
"I've watched him compete every start. Every time he goes out there, he battles," Brentz said. "He's got great stuff, quality stuff. To be able to help get him his first win in his first [Triple-A] start, that's awful special. Hopefully, that makes him more comfortable and takes a little pressure off him."
Workman looks forward to seeing more fireworks from Brentz, who entered the season with 52 homers in 311 Minor League games.
"He's obviously a great hitter with all kinds of power," the 24-year-old right-hander said. "Anytime you can watch him hit, that's fun."
Workman especially enjoyed the show Sunday as Brentz slugged a three-run blast off Chiefs starter Matt Torra (0-3) in the first inning. Brentz swung and missed at a first-pitch cutter, then took two sliders out of the strike zone.
"[Torra] fell behind and he ended up throwing me a BP fastball," Brentz said. "That's the first -- and I'm sure the last time -- I'll see that from him. He's a really good pitcher."
The longball helped Workman relax.
"It was great to be on the mound with a 3-0 lead when I threw my first pitch. That was comforting," he said. "It gave me a little bit of wiggle room."
Workman got two quick outs before issuing a five-pitch walk to Will Rhymes and immediately detected something different at his new level.
"The hitters are more disciplined," he said. "I wasn't commanding very well in the beginning part of the game."
Still, he got out of the inning without trouble and pitched around a second-inning single by Micah Owings. Even when the Chiefs brought six men to the plate in the third, Workman limited the damage to two runs on three hits.
"That's definitely good. I put myself in jams a couple times," he said. "For the most part, I was able to pitch around those situations, so that was a good thing about this game."
Owings homered off Workman leading off the fourth to get Syracuse within 4-3.
"I made a bad pitch, I put it right down the middle for him," Workman said. "He put a real good swing on it and he hit it out of the park."
After Nationals No. 14 prospect Zach Walters followed with a single, Workman retired five in a row. He worked around another single and another walk in a scoreless fifth and got two outs in the sixth before issuing a free pass to Francisco Soriano and a base hit to seventh-ranked Washington prospect Eury Perez.
Alex Wilson relieved Workman and struck out Chris Rahl to end the inning.
Never did Workman question whether he was ready for the promotion.
"Not at all. They got some hits, but it wasn't anything that caused me to lose confidence," he said. "I believe my stuff can play anywhere. I just got behind some guys and gave up hits."
Before his first-inning homer, Brentz had seen his batting average drop from .289 on May 29 to .268.
"This last week, I haven't felt that bad at the plate. It's not like I've been in a slump or anything, I've just been trying to do too much," he said. "Today, I was able to get to the plan, back to the stuff we've been working on these last two years. It's easier said than done, sticking to the game plan."
Brentz doubled over the head of center fielder Corey Brown in the fifth.
"[Torra] mixes his pitches really well and he adds and subtracts velocity. One cutter will be 89, the next will be 84, then he throws you a slider," Brentz said. "On 1-1, it was that cutter at about 89 and I took it for a strike and said, 'Yup, that's a good pitch.' The next pitch was the same, but it didn't cut as much and caught more of the plate and I was able to get a good swing on it."
Facing Michael Crotta with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth, Brentz poked a ground ball through the left side for an RBI single.
"This last week, I've had a lot of opportunities, especially with men in scoring position," he said. "To be able to stick to the plan today and come through with the bases loaded, I was like, 'Yeah, all right.'"
Red Sox No. 2 prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. doubled, while rehabbing third baseman Will Middlebrooks singled and walked.
"Watching [Middlebrooks], watching his at-bats is impressive. You can see a difference when you watch his at-bats and compare them to other people," Brentz said. "Hopefully, he'll be healthy and back up there again soon. And, hopefully at some point down the road this year, I'll be playing in Boston with him."
Josh Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com.