FORT MYERS, Fla. -- They began the season in the same rotation in Double-A Portland. The three of them shared an apartment downtown, went out to eat together, played the same video games.
"It seemed like all of a sudden,'' Ranaudo said Monday, "I look up and they're pitching in Boston. Not just pitching in Boston, but making a contribution, key guys for that team down the stretch.''
Britton, the left-hander with the funky haircut from Bowie High, went unscored upon in his first seven appearances out of the bullpen. Workman, the big right-hander from the University of Texas, started and relieved, won six games and was summoned from the bullpen in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the World Series.
"I couldn't have predicted the World Series,'' Workman said, "but I went into last season expecting to make it up [to the big leagues] during the year. That was the goal I set for myself in the offseason, and I worked hard to put myself in that position. I thought I had a realistic shot at achieving that. "The World Series, you can't expect that.''
The template has been established for the young, gifted arms who are here in rare abundance this spring. Once you walk inside these clubhouse doors, even if this is your first big league camp, there's no telling how rapidly the future will arrive. Heck, Workman wasn't even in big league camp last spring.
"It's pretty awesome to see,'' Ranaudo said. "Definitely eye-opening and exciting for myself and the other young guys, knowing the opportunity is there if you keep working hard, keep working toward that goal. Hopefully, you'll be in the same position they were in.''
Jon Lester was once one of these kids. He talked Monday of how intimidating it can be to be in your first camp. Now, at 30 and in his 13th spring training since he first showed up as an 18-year-old in 2002, Lester has an eye on the next generation of Red Sox pitchers. They, in turn, are here hoping to learn how to become a Jon Lester.
"They seem like good kids, they work hard, they ask questions, follow guys around, try to do the right thing,'' Lester said Monday. "I think it's going to be exciting when they get their shot early in spring and see what they can do. Obviously, we hear about them, we know about them, we know about their stuff, what they're capable of doing.''
The names are as familiar to Lester as to those who read Soxprospects.com, Baseball America or Keith Law's ESPN.com reports. And there are other names, all part of what Red Sox manager John Farrell calls the second tier. Henry Owens, the southern Californian who, like Ranaudo, is 6-foot-7 but throws left-handed and ran off 19-plus innings of no-hit ball last season. Matt Barnes, the former University of Connecticut star. Dalier Hinojosa, a right-hander who comes here direct from Cuba after signing a $4.25 million contract with the Sox last October.
Owens, Ranaudo, Barnes and Hinojosa, who at 28 is the oldest of the group, are all in big league camp for the first time. They are joined by holdovers Workman and Britton, Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, all of whom spent at least some time in the big leagues last season and now are looking for the chance to establish permanent residency.
"I think you go into every spring training somewhat intrigued by the guys coming into camp for the first time,'' Farrell said. "Because our depth rotation will come from that group, we'll take every opportunity to get to know them and how they respond to adversity inside games here, in a big league environment for the first time.''
Owens, Barnes, Ranaudo and Hinojosa were among the pitchers who threw bullpen sessions Monday. With all due respect to Lester, none of them seemed intimidated by their surroundings.
Owens, at 21, is the youngest of the group. He began last season in Class A Salem. His reaction upon hearing of his invitation to big league camp?
"Excitement,'' he said calmly. "And then more excitement. I'm just excited to see how my stuff translates against the big league guys.''
"I'm not intimidated,'' he said. "No. These guys are all loose. This is a great bunch of guys.
"I think everyone in this locker room has the ability to play in the big leagues. It's just their mental ability and how consistent they are every day. Obviously, we've got a bunch of veterans who've been doing it for 10 years. It's good to have them around, see how they do it every day.''
Ranaudo and Barnes, likewise, rejected the notion of being intimidated.
"I don't think 'intimidated' is the word,'' Ranaudo said. "I'm just anxious, kind of anxious to see how those guys carry themselves, how those guys do their work. It sounds real clichéd, but those guys have laid a great foundation for us young guys looking in.''
And Barnes professed to be undaunted by the idea of Farrell standing behind him while throwing a bullpen.
"You know he's there in the back of your mind,'' he said, "But I'm trying to prepare to pitch in front of 35 to 40 thousand people and on national television, so having five or six people behind you, even though they are a very important part of your career and where it takes you, once you're on the mound, you block that all out.''
Because of shared time in the minor leagues coming up together, the three Portland roommates, plus Barnes, have become close friends. Owens, meanwhile, is instantly likable. Workman said he and Ranaudo talked just the other day of what it is like to be friends and yet be competing for the same livelihood.
"I feel like my success is completely separate from his success,'' Workman said. "Just because he's having success and moving up doesn't mean I can't do the same. I feel it's like that for all of us.''
In the coming weeks, you will see and hear and read much about all of these guys. The odds, of course, are stacked against all of them making it. The attrition rate for pitchers is very high. There will be injuries, setbacks, trades.
But they all share the conviction they are here because the ultimate goal is within their grasp.
"We've all kind of played together the last couple of years, at least at some point during the season,'' Barnes said. "It's a friendly competition. We all want to do well. Hopefully, we'll all be pitching together one day for the Boston Red Sox.''