Rookie right-hander Tanner Houck will return to the Red Sox’ starting rotation for Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader against the White Sox, manager Alex Cora told reporters following his team’s 7-4 victory over the White Sox on Saturday. Left-hander Martin Perez will start Game 2.
Houck, who is currently at the alternate training site, will more than likely serve as the 27th man on the Sox’ roster for Sunday’s twin bill, meaning he can simply be returned to Worcester after Game 2 with no corresponding roster move needed to be made.
The 24-year-old initially made Boston’s Opening Day roster earlier this month after left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez required a brief stint on the injured list due to elbow inflammation.
Pitching in Rodriguez’s place against the Orioles on April 3, Houck impressed by yielding just three runs (two earned) on six hits and one walk to go along with eight strikeouts over five solid innings of work.
He also allowed one unearned run on one hit and two strikeouts while pitching out of the bullpen in the 11th inning of a game against the Rays three days later.
Since making his big-league debut last September, the former first-round draft pick has posted a 1.17 ERA, a 2.48 FIP, and a 31:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio over five outings — four of which were starts — and 23 total innings pitched.
Despite the success he has enjoyed in the majors to this point, Houck has yet to earn a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation on a regular basis. One thing the team wanted to see him continue to work on in Worcester was the development of his third pitch: a splitter.
“I think Tanner Houck is a capable major league starting pitcher right now, but that doesn’t mean he’s a finished product,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Bloom told The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato after Houck was first optioned to the alternate site on April 6. “We know his ceiling could be even higher if he gets really comfortable with a third pitch. We know he can get lefties out, executing the fastball and slider the way he has in his big league starts, but if he can get more comfortable with that splitter, he’ll be even better. While he’s in Worcester, it’ll be easier to work on that than it would be while he’s pitching in a close game at the big league level.”
Houck will get the opportunity to show what he has been working on at Polar Park when he makes his return to Fenway Park on Sunday.
And even if he is optioned back down to the alternate site afterwards, the expectation is that the 6-foot-5, 218 pound hurler will be back once again sooner rather than later in the event that the Red Sox need a starter for whatever reason.
“He understands,” Cora said of Houck back on April 7. “Whenever we need him, he’ll be here and he’ll perform.”
(Picture of Tanner Houck: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)