The Red Sox are planning on optioning Tanner Houck to Triple-A Worcester, manager Alex Cora said following his team’s 8-1 loss to the Rays at Fenway Park on Thursday night.
Houck, who made his sixth start and eighth overall appearance for Boston in Thursday’s series finale, allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and zero walks to go along with eight strikeouts over five-plus innings of work.
While it seemed as though Houck had become a permanent member of the Sox’ starting rotation with Garrett Richards and Martin Perez being moved to the bullpen, the right-hander will actually come off Boston’s major-league roster for the time being beginning on Friday.
That being said, Houck should still make his next start for the Red Sox as scheduled, as the club has an off day on Monday and a doubleheader against the Yankees on Tuesday that will allow for some roster flexibility.
Because Tuesday will feature a doubleheader between Boston and New York, the Sox would be able to call up Houck as their 27th man for the twin bill and start him on regular rest in one of the two games at Yankee Stadium.
In the interim, the Red Sox can option the 25-year-old hurler down to Worcester and, in turn, gain an extra arm in the bullpen or position player on the bench.
“He’ll be with us soon,” Cora said of Houck Thursday night. “We still have some flexibility in the roster in the upcoming days. That’s something we — Chaim [Bloom] and the group — are going to talk about after we’re done with you guys. He’s still contributing. He’ll contribute again soon with us. Let’s put it that way.”
As things currently stand, the Sox’ 26-man major-league roster is obviously at full capacity. However, a potential roster shakeup could be on the horizon depending on the statuses of certain players who were/are away from the team for different reasons.
Alex Verdugo, who was placed on the paternity list on Sunday, arrived in Boston from Los Angeles on Thursday. If the 25-year-old clears the necessary COVID-19 protocols, the plan is for him to be activated ahead of Friday’s series opener against the Orioles, per Cora.
Christian Vazquez, who was placed on the bereavement list on Wednesday, is expected to return to the Red Sox on Saturday, according to Cora. It seems likely optioning Connor Wong to Worcester would be the corresponding move to get the veteran backstop back on the big-league roster.
Kyle Schwarber, meanwhile, was slated to kick off a rehab assignment in Worcester on Thursday, but the WooSox’ game against the Syracuse Mets was postponed due to inclement weather.
Thursday’s rained-out contest will be made up as part of a single admission doubleheader at Polar Park on Friday night, though it is no sure thing Schwarber will partake.
That being the case because earlier Thursday, Cora revealed that the 28-year-old slugger could make his Red Sox debut “sooner rather than later.”
The Sox acquired Schwarber, who has been on the injured list with a right hamstring since July 3, from the Washington Nationals in exchange for pitching prospect Aldo Ramirez on the eve of the trade deadline — July 29.
Since that time, Schwarber has been working his way back and — despite a minor setback on account of some groin tightness — has been getting work in at a relatively new position in first base.
Prior to injuring his hamstring last month, Schwarber appeared in 72 games for the Nationals, all of which came as a left fielder, which has essentially been his primary position throughout his major-league career.
As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, though, the Red Sox — in addition to using him at first base — also plan on using the 6-foot, 229 pounder in the outfield as well as at designated hitter, which would lead to J.D. Martinez getting more playing time in left field.
Taking all that into consideration, it would seem as though Franchy Cordero would be the odd man out in this scenario, as Schwarber can provide the Sox with the left-handed bat they need at first base while Schwarber, Martinez and Verdugo would figure to see the lion’s share of playing time in left field.
Cordero, who has minor-league options remaining, only solves part of the problem, though, as the Red Sox will have to make an even more significant move when it comes time to activate Chris Sale off the 60-day injured list ahead of his 2021 debut on Saturday.
Sale was placed on the 60-day IL back in February and was taken off Boston’s 40-man roster as a result. With the ace left-hander’s return to the mound drawing ever closer, the Sox will have to find a way to create a spot for him,
The same can be said about right-handed reliever Ryan Brasier, who was placed on the 60-day injured list because of a left calf strain in early May.
Like Schwarber, Brasier was slated to appear in Thursday night’s contest between the WooSox and Syracuse Mets while on a rehab assignment, but those plans have since changed.
It does not appear as if Braiser is in line to return and make his 2021 debut with the Red Sox this weekend like Sale is, but it is something the club will need to keep in mind nevertheless.
On top of Sale and Brasier nearing their returns from the 60-day injured lists, Matt Andriese, Darwnizon Hernandez, Christian Arroyo and Danny Santana are all on the 10-day injured list as well.
So, whether it be optioning someone like Cordero or Jonathan Arauz to Worcester to make room for someone who is already on the 40-man roster or designating a struggling veteran like Marwin Gonzalez to make room for someone who needs to be added to the 40-man roster, the Red Sox — led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom — could very well be on the verge of a major-league shakeup as they look to keep their postseason hopes alive down the final stretch of the season.
“We’ll talk about it,” Cora said of the possibility of the club making roster moves in the near future. “There’s certain parts of our roster that we have to be better. Overall, to win ballgames, it takes 26 guys. And not everybody’s playing well, not everybody’s contributing the way they’re capable of. So, we’ll talk about it.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of stuff going on this weekend and next week with the IL, Alex [Verdugo] coming back, Christian [Vazquez] coming back on Saturday,” added Cora. “So, that’s something we’ll talk about as a group and we’ll go from there.”
(Picture of Tanner Houck: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)