The Red Sox have optioned rookie right-hander Tanner Houck to their alternate training site in Worcester, the team announced prior to Wednesday’s game against the Rays.
The move to option Houck comes as no surprise with Eduardo Rodriguez slated to be activated from the injured list and make his first start of the season against the Orioles on Thursday.
Houck, who turns 25 in June, was initially slated to open the year at the Sox’ alternate training site out of spring training, but Rodriguez being placed on the IL due to elbow inflammation led to the righty breaking camp as the team’s No. 2 starter.
In his first start of the season, which came against Baltimore this past Saturday, Houck yielded three runs — two of which were earned — on six hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts over five innings of work.
He also allowed one unearned run while working the 11th inning of Tuesday’s 6-5, extra-innings win over Tampa Bay.
Since making his major-league debut last September, the former first-round draft pick has posted a 1.17 ERA, a 2.51 FIP, and a 31:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in five outings (four starts) spanning 23 innings pitched for the Sox.
Despite the success Houck has been enjoying at the big-league level thus far, the Red Sox still feel like the 6-foot-5, 218 pound hurler has some work to do in regards to his development. A prime example of this would be to continue working on his third pitch: a splitter.
“It all depends on what you mean check all the boxes,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters Tuesday (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) in regards to why Houck was going to be sent down. “You can be successful here but that doesn’t mean you have checked all your boxes from our end. And you can keep getting better.”
Another reason why the Sox are sending down Houck is because of the starters they already have on their roster.
With Rodriguez set to make his return to the mound on Thursday, Boston’s starting rotation will consist of Nathan Eovaldi, Rodriguez, Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, and Martin Perez.
Because Cora and Co. are not currently considering the use of a six-man rotation, Houck becomes the odd man out and will instead serve as rotation depth in Worcester.
Per Cotillo, “the expectation is that Houck will come up and start games later in the year if one of the veteran starters is injured or struggles.”
Until then, he will be limited to simulated games and bullpen sessions at the alternate site at Polar Park before the Worcester Red Sox begin their season in May.
(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)