Red Sox closer Tanner Houck will undergo back surgery on Tuesday, manager Alex Cora announced ahead of Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Rangers at Fenway Park.
Houck, who last pitched on August 2, will miss the remainder of the 2022 season. But he is expected to make a full recovery and subsequently be ready for spring training in February.
Boston originally placed Houck on the 15-day injured list with lower back inflammation on Aug. 6. The 26-year-old right-hander was later diagnosed with a disc issue in his lower back after being examined by a spine specialist in the city.
While the Red Sox elected to briefly shut down Houck, they were hopeful he would respond positively to treatment. That appeared to be the case when he resumed playing catch last week and was scheduled to throw live batting practice in Worcester on Tuesday. But that did not happen as scheduled, as Houck was completely shut down from baseball activities due to continued back soreness.
“It’s disc related,” Cora said (via MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) of Houck’s impending surgery. “He should be fine for spring training. Obviously we pushed it to pitch. But the strength is not back. He was almost there. But it didn’t work out. So everybody decided this is the best course of action and he should be OK.”
With his year now over, Houck has finished his third year in the big-leagues having posted a 3.15 ERA and 3.31 FIP with 56 strikeouts to 22 walks over 32 appearances (four starts) spanning 60 innings of work. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound hurler made all four of those starts in April before moving to the bullpen on a full-time basis on May 15.
From there, Houck ultimately assumed the role of Boston’s closer while pitching to a 1.49 ERA (3.18 FIP) to go along with 33 strikeouts and 11 walks across 25 relief outings (36 1/3 innings). He also converted eight of nine save opportunities.
“I thought he was solid,” Cora said. “Obviously as a starter, he did his thing. Then, we moved him to the bullpen and I think he was really good in the bullpen. The stuff is really good.”
Cora added that during the off-season, the Red Sox will sit down and talk about how to best utilize Houck and fellow righty Garrett Whitlock. The pair now have experience starting and closing out games at the major-league level, which is a valuable asset.
“We know they can do both,” said Cora. “Obviously that’s a bigger conversation to where we’re going to go and what we’re going to try to do in the off-season. But they can impact the game on either side — the first five innings or the last four innings. They’re that good. And Tanner, he’s done it as a starter and a reliever. He made some strides. I think he learned a lot about himself. He actually willed himself for a while there to be available, which is very important.”
Houck, who does not turn 27 until next June and is under club control through 2027, will likely be placed on the 60-day injured list. That would allow the Red Sox to create an opening on their 40-man roster for the impending promotion of Triston Casas.
(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Mayer/Getty Images)