Red Sox pitching prospect Tanner Houck took an important step in his road t0wards making a return to the big-leagues on Thursday night.
Fresh off being activated from the injured list after being shut down for more than a month due to flexor muscle soreness, Houck shined in his first start with Triple-A Worcester since May 4.
Matched up against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs with Chris Sale among those in attendance at Polar Park, the right-hander tossed three scoreless, no-hit innings while walking just one and recording six strikeouts.
Sitting between 95-96 mph with his fastball, Houck punched out a pair in each of his three frames of work in the process of retiring nine of the 10 hitters he faced. Of the 45 pitches he threw, 26 went for strikes.
“In terms of today, I threw all my pitches,” Houck said following the WooSox’ 3-2 victory over the Iron Pigs. “Threw the four-seam, two-seam, slider. Only threw one splitter, but it’s just part of it. It’s about continuing to grow, and I feel 100%. So, excited to keep moving forward and doing what I can.”
For Houck, tossing three scoreless innings without a problem while facing live hitters in a competitive environment for the first time in well over a month is certainly an encouraging sign, both for him and the Red Sox.
“I was just excited to show up today and be able to get to play in a game,” Houck said when asked about potential next steps in regards to his throwing program. “Being away for as long as I did, definitely a little stir-crazy at the end there. I wanted to get back out there and play. Getting to see this team compete on a day-to-day basis and how great they’ve been just makes me want to get out there even more.”
Prior to getting shut down in early May, the 24-year-old hurler was viewed as one of, if not the top rotation depth option available to the Red Sox at the minor-league level if one of their regular starters had to miss a significant period of time.
In six appearances (five starts) with Boston since making his major-league debut last September, Houck has posted a 1.98 ERA and 2.92 FIP over 27 1/3 total innings of work. Two of those five starts came in April.
Assuming he is a full-go for his next start with the WooSox, one would have to think Houck will be able to increase his workload as he continues to build up his strength and work his way back towards garnering big-league consideration once again.
(Picture of Tanner Houck: Ashley Green/Telegram & Gazette)