The year anniversary of the Red Sox unearthing a potential closer

Rob Bradford
January 11, 2019 - 12:04 pm

Why not?

That was the reaction Steve Peck had when word came down from the Red Sox' front office that a blast from the past was holding a workout about 25 minutes from the scout's Phoenix-area home. Peck remembered Ryan Brasier, although it had been a few years.

"I remember getting the email and saying I had a history with him," Peck told WEEI.com. "I had seen him with the Angels two or three years prior. He had been over in Japan, and while we hadn’t seen him we had kept tabs on him while he was in Hiroshima. My response was I had a history with the guy and I would love to go down and see him."

But these sort of January get-togethers usually don't distinguish themselves. Perhaps the only thing that might have been a separator in Brasier's case was that the player had actually got the ball rolling by sending his own emails to get the word out, with the Red Sox' recipient being farm director Ben Crockett.

"It was going to be one of many," Peck said.

So, on a typically clear, mid-January Arizona morning, Brasier threw about 35-40 pitches for eight teams. One year later he is in the conversation to become the closer for the Red Sox.

Looking back at the moment which pushed forward Brasier's story with the Red Sox Peck can clearly appreciate the process and why this one stood out.

It wasn't like these sort of workouts never bear fruit or offer eyebrow-raising among the attendees. That was certainly the case when watching Mark Mulder attempt his comeback heading into the 2014 season, immediately piquing the interest of the Red Sox' scout thanks to a very similar workout as the one Brasier participated in. (Mulder was ultimately signed by the Angels, not making it out of spring training after rupturing his Achilles tendon.)

Sometimes there just needs to be some dot-connecting.

"Sometimes you have a need and there is a fit," Peck said. "I think Brasier kind of fit with us.

"It was an interesting year there was a sense there was maybe a little more opportunity that we have had in the past just simply because we had three or four roster relievers who were young guys and had very minimal major league experience if any. The idea was that maybe there was going to be a need for a guy who had some experience at the major league level. That was another part of the conversation."

But the Red Sox' certainly weren't desperate enough for a veteran arm that they would be taking any sort of leap of faith if Brasier's workout fell flat. But it didn't.

"What jumped out was the arm strength," Peck remembered. "Typically we don’t see veteran guys that are throwing in January that was like him, throwing 94-95 off the mound. Typically we’ll see 88-89, which leads to some gray area of how much is in there. There wasn’t a lot gray area as far as knowing this guy is healthy. That’s what jumped out."

And then there was Peck's punctuation: The post-workout conversation.

The combination of the performance and the vibe given off by Brasier following his exhibition led the Sox' scout to absolutely believe there was going to be competition for the righty's services. But more than a month later, there was just one team willing to offer the reliever a chance -- the Red Sox.

"I was surprised," said Peck of the lack of offers. "I’ll tell you the reason why: The conversation with him afterward was perhaps the most compelling as far as a push for me. He was really a breath of fresh air because I think he understood there were a lot of right-handed relievers out there and he just needed an opportunity. He really expressed that. It was not like, ‘I need this,’ or ‘I want this.’ Ryan was really like, ‘I just want to pitch. Because of that, you saw the confidence in him. He was saying he was ready to let his ability speak for itself. That was really attractive about him. I was a career minor-league pitcher so to see a guy who continued to push was really exciting. I was really happy for him."

A year later, Brasier represents the ultimate reminder: It's always worth the drive.

"You never know what you’re going to find," Peck said. "You keep hitting these things you never know what you’re going to find."

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