Red Sox’ Tanner Houck Leaning on Nathan Eovaldi To Help Develop Splitter

As rookie right-hander Tanner Houck prepares to make his third and final start of the 2020 season against the Braves on Saturday, he is also looking ahead to the offseason.

The 24-year-old has impressed during his first two turns through the Red Sox rotation, yielding just one unearned run on three hits and six walks to go along with 11 strikeouts over 11 total innings pitched.

Houck has thrown 171 pitches in those two starts, and according to Statcast, 33% of those pitches have been sliders, 32% have been four-seam fastballs, 30% have been sinkers, and 5% have been split-finger fastballs.

That splitter, Houck’s newest and least-used pitch thus far, is something the former first-round pick is looking to continue to develop over the winter, and he’s seeking out advice from a fellow Red Sox rotation mate in order to do so.

“The main focus is continuing to develop the splitter,” Houck said of his offseason plans when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Friday. “That’s been a pitch that I started throwing during spring training 1.0 of this year. I’ve seen a lot of growth with it. A guy that I’ve talked to a lot about with the splitter is [Nathan] Eovaldi. He’s a great guy to talk about pitching and he has one of the nastiest splits, so I’ve been bouncing questions off him, how he holds it, what he’s thinking whenever he throws it. That’s step No. 1, to just develop that third pitch along with continuing to develop a feel for a two-seam going glove side, a four-seam going arm side, and just being able to move the ball around.”

Per Statcast, Houck is averaging a velocity of 87.1 mph and a spin rate of 1,571 revolutions per minute with the eight splitters he has thrown so far this year. Eovaldi, meanwhile, is averaging a velocity of 87.9 mph and a spin rate of 1,486 revolutions per minute with the 105 splitters he has thrown in 2020.

This isn’t the first time Eovaldi has doled out veteran wisdom to a younger Red Sox hurler, either. Back in August, rookie southpaw Kyle Hart said that the 30-year-old had helped him better understand the system some of the club’s starting pitchers use to scout other teams.

Red Sox Rookie Tanner Houck Planning on Attacking Strike Zone Against Yankees in First Fenway Park Start

Red Sox rookie right-hander Tanner Houck is coming off a superb major-league debut against the Marlins last Tuesday in which he collected seven strikeouts over five scoreless innings en route to picking up his first career victory.

Following that impressive showing, a new challenge for Houck awaits on Sunday, as the 24-year-old hurler will be going up against a red-hot Yankees team in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park.

With a 6-5, 12-inning win over Boston on Friday, New York extended their current winning streak to a season-best nine consecutive games. Over that dominant stretch, which goes back to September 9, the Bronx Bombers are slashing an absurd .314/.401/.711 against opposing right-handed pitchers while clubbing 25 home runs and posting a 194 wRC+. These numbers are something Houck will have to keep in mind when he takes the Fenway Park mound for the first time.

“For me, nothing really changes,” Houck said of his mindset going into his first home start of the season. “As long as you go out there and attack the zone, I think good things happen. If you go right at people, get them on their heels early, it sets up a lot more. Typically, whenever you’re behind in the count, a lot of people become more dangerous. So, go out there, attack right away and I’ll definitely real confident.”

In his debut against Miami last Tuesday, Houck faced 19 batters. Among those 19 batters, the former first-round pick fell behind the count on several occasions, but he did manage to limit the opposition to just three walks while mixing in his four-seam and split-finger fastball as well as his sinker and slider.

Limiting traffic on the base paths could prove to be pivotal for the Illinois native on Sunday, as the Yankees have accrued the second-highest walk percentage in the American League (11.9%) going back to the start of their current winning streak.

To construct a proper game plan for a team as dangerous as New York, Houck will need to be diligent in his preparations. He does however have one tool that he did not have available to him in the minor-leagues: advanced analytics.

“It’s definitely got its new challenges with everything,” the Mizzou product said of his introduction to the majors. “There’s a lot more scouting report info to take in, which I love. Being able to go out there and know my opponent just a little bit more helps me set up a game plan a lot.”

On top of the insights he has received from the Red Sox’ analytics department, Houck has also gotten some helpful advice from fellow former Missouri Tigers in the majors, such as Nationals ace Max Scherzer and Rangers right-hander Kyle Gibson.

“Having guys like that reach out is truly an honor,” Houck added. “I’m truly blessed to be a part of that brotherhood. I’ve definitely gotten to talk to Gibson and Scherzer over the years having that Mizzou connection, and just kind of bouncing ideas off them is truly great. It’s more people to learn from and this is a game that you got to learn from your elders a little bit, see what they’ve done and just try to learn from that.”

Houck will get the ball against the Yankees and fellow rookie righty Deivi Garcia on Sunday afternoon.

Red Sox Recall Jeffrey Springs, Robert Stock From Alternate Training Site

One day after trading two of their better relievers — Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman — to the Philles on Friday, the Red Sox have recalled left-hander Jeffrey Springs and right-hander Robert Stock from the club’s alternate training site ahead of Saturday night’s game against the Orioles.

Both Springs and Stock will be making their second major-league stint with the Sox this season after the former was optioned to Pawtucket on August 11 and the latter was optioned on August 13.

In his first four relief outings with Boston, Springs, who turns 28 next month, posted a 15.43 ERA and 1.164 OPS against over 4 2/3 total innings pitched from July 27 until August 11. The North Carolina native was originally acquired by the Sox from the Rangers in exchange for Sam Travis back in January.

Stock, meanwhile, made just one appearance for Boston while he was up with the big-league club from August 11 until August 13.

In that one outing against the Rays on August 11, the 30-year-old hurler yielded one unearned run on two hits, three walks and three strikeouts over 1 1/3 total innings of work.

A former second-round draft pick out of the University of Southern California back in 2009, Stock was claimed off waivers by the Red Sox from the Phillies on July 27.

With these moves made, the Red Sox once again have 28 players on their active roster, 15 of which are pitchers.

Red Sox Trade Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Cash To Phillies in Exchange for Right-Handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold

The Red Sox have traded right-handed relievers Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman, as well as cash considerations and a player to be named later or cash considerations, to the Phillies for right-hander Nick Pivetta and right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold, the club announced Friday night.

With this trade made, the first domino has fell for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. leading up to the August 31 trading deadline.

Workman was set to become a free agent this winter, while Hembree is under team control through the end of the 2021 season.

The Phillies, who came into the weekend with the worst bullpen ERA in baseball (8.07), are clearly trying to upgrade their pen as they look to vie for a playoff spot despite a 9-12 start to the season.

By acquiring Hembree and Workman from Boston, Philadelphia has accomplished this in at least some capacity.

Hembree, 31, carried a 1.86 ERA and .503 OPS against through his first 10 appearances and 9 2/3 innings of the year before getting lit up for four runs against the Phils on Tuesday.

Workman, meanwhile, turned 32 last week and had yielded three runs on eight hits, four walks, and eight strikeouts through his first seven outings and 6 2/3 innings of 2020. That’s good for a 4.05 ERA and 2.57 FIP.

The two now-former Sox hurlers will likely become two of the top late-inning relief options out of the Phillies bullpen from now until the end of the season.

As for what the Red Sox got back in this deal, let’s start with Nick Pivetta.

A 27-year-old right-hander out of British Columbia, Pivetta appeared in three games for the Phillies prior to being optioned to the club’s alternate training site on August 11.

In those three outings, the former fourth-round pick surrendered 10 earned runs over just 5 2/3 innings of work.

Prior to 2020, Pivetta owned a 5.34 ERA and 4.56 FIP through his first 89 appearances (71 starts) and 390 2/3 innings with the Phillies dating back to 2017.

Per Statcast, Pivetta, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 214 lbs., is a four-pitch pitcher who primarily relies on his four-seam fastball and has a curveball, changeup, and slider in his arsenal as well.

Turning to Connor Seabold now, the 24-year-old was the Phillies’ third-round pick in the 2017 amateur draft out of Cal State Fullerton.

Regarded by MLB Pipeine as Philadelphia’s No. 23 prospect, Seabold, listed at 6-foor-2 and 190 lbs., posted a 2.24 ERA and .224 batting average against in 12 total appearances (11 starts) and 56 1/3 innings pitched between three minor-league levels in 2019.

Per his MLB Pipeline scouting report, Seabold “will always be a command and control pitcher, one who has to rely on changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance. His swing-and-miss rate went up in the Arizona Fall League and if that’s for real, he could fit into the back end of a big league rotation soon.”

Because the Red Sox traded Hembree and Workman, they opened up two spots on their 60-man player pool, which will now presumably be filled by Pivetta and Seabold. The former was on Philly’s 40-man roster, while the latter was not.

Update: For clarity, Pivetta was optioned to the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket following the move.

Red Sox Claim Right-Hander Andrew Triggs off Waivers From Giants, Designate Left-Hander Stephen Gonsalves for Assignment

The Red Sox have claimed right-hander Andrew Triggs off waivers from the San Francisco Giants. In order to make room for Triggs on the 40-man roster, left-hander Stephen Gonsalves was designated for assignment. The club made this transaction official earlier Wednesday.

Triggs, 31, was designated by San Francisco last Wednesday, 10 days after he yielded three earned runs on three hits and three walks in just 1/3 of an inning in his 2020 debut on August 2.

Prior to the 2020 season, Triggs, a three-time draftee out of the University of Southern California, made 45 appearances (27 starts) for the Oakland Athletics from 2016 through 2018.

In those 45 outings over the course of three seasons with the A’s, the Tennessee native posted a 4.53 ERA and 4.12 FIP over 163 total innings pitched.

Obviously capable of both pitching out of the rotation and bullpen based off his track record, Triggs owns a lifetime 4.28 ERA and .693 OPS against as a starter, and a lifetime 6.39 ERA and .839 OPS against as a reliever.

Last season, Triggs made just three appearances with Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas before getting released in August. That in turn led him to sign a minor-league deal with the Giants in January, but his tenure there clearly did not last all that long given Wednesday’s news.

Per Statcast, Triggs is a three-pitch pitcher, as he primarily works from a three-quarters arm slot and has a sinker, slider, and curveball in his arsenal.

With this roster move made, Triggs is now on the Sox’ 40-man roster and has been optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket.

Gonsalves, meanwhile, was removed from Boston’s 40-man roster nearly four weeks after he was originally claimed off waivers from the Mets. The 26-year-old had been working out at McCoy Stadium, and he will likely clear waivers unless he piques another club’s interest.

Red Sox Activate Josh Taylor off Injured List, Option Chris Mazza To Pawtucket in Slew of Roster Moves

Before wrapping up a four-game series against the Yankees on Monday night, the Red Sox made a series of roster moves, activating left-hander Josh Taylor off the 10-day COVID-19 related injured list, optioning right-hander Chris Mazza to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, and placing newly-acquired infielder Christian Arroyo on the injured list retroactive to August 14.

Taylor had been on the IL since July 14 after testing positive for COVID-19 during intake screening in Boston before the start of Summer Camp. After getting cleared to return to baseball activities after self-isolating in a hotel room in the city, the 27-year-old had been building up his stamina while working out at McCoy Stadium prior to Monday’s announcement. His return to the Red Sox bullpen will be a welcome one.

Mazza, meanwhile, was optioned back down to Pawtucket shortly after making his first career major-league start at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night. The 30-year-old hurler surrendered four runs on eight hits and one walk over three innings pitched in his second appearance of the season with the Red Sox, and it now appears as though the club will turn to someone else next time through the rotation.

As for Arroyo, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo suggests that the Sox placing the 25-year-old on the COVID-19 related  injured list does not imply a positive test, just that the intake process is not yet complete. Per Cotillo, the “hope is to activate him [Tuesday].”

A former top prospect selected in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft by the Giants, Arroyo was claimed off waivers by Boston from the Indians last Thursday.

The Florida native has not exactly lived up to that first-round hype to this point, as he owns a lifetime OPS+ of 66 through his first 71 major-league games dating back to 2017, but he is capable of playing all around the infield, so he certainly comes with plenty of versatility.

When the time comes for the Red Sox to activate Arroyo, which again could be as early as Tuesday, expect a 40-man roster move to be made then.

 

Red Sox Option Dylan Covey to Pawtucket in Order to Make Room on Roster for Chris Mazza

Before making his first career major-league start on Sunday night, right-hander Chris Mazza needed to be added to the Red Sox’ active roster. In order to make that happen, the Sox optioned fellow righty Dylan Covey to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket prior to Sunday’s contest against the Yankees.

In his second stint with Boston after initially getting recalled from Pawtucket back on August 8, Covey, who just turned 29 on Friday, surrendered three earned runs on five hits, no walks, and two strikeouts over three relief appearances and 4 1/3 total innings pitched.

All three of those runs came in Friday’s loss to the Yankees, as the California native now owns a 7.11 ERA and .692 OPS against through his first four outings as a member of the Red Sox dating back to July 25. He will likely be up with the big-league club again before the end of the 2020 season.

As for Mazza, the 30-year-old will make his second appearance with the Red Sox a little more than two weeks after making his team debut at Yankee Stadium on August 1.

Mazza limited New York to just one hit and two walks while fanning three over 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief in that outing, and he will now get the chance to start a game for the first time as a major-leaguer.

Prior to coming over to the Sox in December, the Bay Area native made 13 starts for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse last season and posted a 3.77 ERA and .234 batting average against over 74 innings pitched.

That being said, expect Mazza to get anywhere between three to five innings of work in on Sunday depending on how he looks early on. First pitch is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. eastern time on ESPN and WEEI.

Red Sox Rookie Left-Hander Kyle Hart Will Make Second Start of Season Against Phillies on Wednesday

After allowing seven runs (five earned) over two-plus innings in his major-league debut against the Rays on Thursday, Red Sox rookie left-hander Kyle Hart will get another start against the Phillies on Wednesday, manager Ron Roenicke announced earlier Saturday.

Per Roenicke, the reasoning behind this is that the Red Sox “wanted to try to give [Hart] more than just one start” rather than option him back down to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket.

The 27-year-old southpaw may have struggled for the most part in his first career start against Tampa Bay, but he did show some glimpses of promise, like when he struck out four of the first 11 hitters he faced or recorded five swings-and-misses

As noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier prior to Saturday’s announcement from Roenicke, “No young Red Sox pitcher has made more than one big league start as a first-time call-up since 2015, when Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens made their debuts.”

By naming Hart as Wednesday’s starter, the Red Sox are perhaps trying to five Hart a boost of confidence and reassurance after a shaky debut. Roenicke divulged into this more during his pregame media availability on Saturday.

“It’s hard enough to do well and perform here in the big leagues,” the Sox skipper said. “So I think with Kyle, just go out there again and relax and pitch the way you can. And hopefully we get a good start from him.”

As previously mentioned, Hart allowed seven runs, two of which were unearned, on seven hits (two home runs) and three walks to go along with four strikeouts on Thursday against Tampa Bay. He needed 73 pitches (44 strikes), to get through two-plus innings while retiring six of the 17 hitters he faced.

Facing off against the Phillies at Fenway Park on Wednesday, the former 19th-round pick out of Indiana University will be opposed by a club that entered Saturday with the highest collective wRC+ (142) against left-handed pitching in the National League so far this season, according to FanGraphs.

Right-Hander Chris Mazza to Make First Career Start for Red Sox on Sunday Night

Right-hander Chris Mazza will make his first career major-league start for the Red Sox in Sunday night’s game against the Yankees, manager Ron Roenicke announced Saturday.

Per Roenicke, Mazza’s last outing at Yankee Stadium, in which he tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief on August 1, factored into this decision.

The 30-year-old hurler allowed just one hit, walked two, and fanned three in what was his Red Sox debut earlier this month, but he was promptly optioned back to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket on August 6 when roster sizes across baseball had to be reduced from 30 to 28 players.

That being said, a roster move will have to be made in order to add Mazza back to the active roster, which is exactly what Roenicke said would happen earlier in the week.

Prior to being claimed off waivers by the Red Sox from the Mets back in December, Mazza made 17 total starts between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse last season. With Syracuse, the California native posted a 3.77 ERA and .234 batting average against over 13 starts and 74 innings of work.

By going with Mazza for Sunday night’s contest, Roenicke and Co. “are trying to be a little bit more specific” in terms of managing the club’s starting rotation. Through Boston’s first 20 games of the season, 10 different starting pitchers have already been used.

Following Mazza’s start on Sunday, the Red Sox will turn to left-hander Martin Perez on Monday to close out this series against New York before going with Zack Godley and rookie Kyle Hart in next week’s two-game set against the Phillies back at Fenway Park.

When asked about the struggles his pitching staff has endured so far this season, Roenicke acknowledged that it is certainly “more difficult to manage” when you don’t have five definitive starting pitchers and that the 2019 Red Sox “kind of went through the same thing.”

With that in mind, it’s Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for the Sox on Saturday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FOX and WEEI.

Red Sox Option Ryan Weber to Pawtucket, Call up Dylan Covey

Before taking on the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, the Red Sox swapped one right-handed pitcher for another, as the club recalled Dylan Covey from their alternate training site in Pawtucket and in a corresponding move, optioned Ryan Weber.

Covey, who turns 29 next week, will be making his second stint with the Sox after allowing two runs over two innings of relief in a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on July 25. The California native was sent down to Pawtucket shortly after his team debut with the goal of getting him stretched out in mind, manager Ron Roenicke said at the time.

Originally acquired by Boston from the Tampa Bay Rays on July 21, Covey came into the 2020 season with a career 6.54 ERA and 5.56 FIP over 63 outings (45 starts) and 250 1/3 innings pitched with the Chicago White Sox from 2017 through 2019.

Weber, meanwhile, entered the 2020 campaign as the Sox’ No. 3 starter but struggled in that role, most recently surrendering two runs in just three innings of work against the Blue Jays on Friday night.

Through three starts at the big-league level thus far in 2020, the soon-to-be-30-year-old hurler has posted an ERA of 9.90 and OPS against of 1.220 over 10 total innings pitched.

With Weber off the major-league roster for the time being, it will be fascinating to see how the Red Sox approach the vacancy in their starting rotation. Roenicke will likely have more to say about that later Saturday.