Red Sox reinstate Eduardo Rodriguez from injured list ahead of left-hander’s season debut against Orioles

Before opening up a three-game series against the Orioles on Thursday, the Red Sox reinstated left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez from the 10-day injured list.

Rodriguez, who turned 28 on Wednesday, will make his 2021 debut in the first of three against Baltimore after starting the season on the injured list due to left elbow inflammation.

The Venezuelan southpaw originally had been slated to start for Boston on Opening Day, but was scratched from that start on account of dealing with “dead arm” during the late stages of spring training.

That bout with “dead arm” resulted in the Sox placing Rodriguez on the IL last week, but as expected, it was a short stint on the shelf for the lefty.

“He’s good to go,” Red Sox manager Cora said on Wednesday. “Looking forward to him to pitch tomorrow. He really wanted to pitch today because it’s his birthday. Good for him, but no. We’re very happy. He’ll be okay tomorrow. He’ll be ready to go.”

When Rodriguez takes the field at Camden Yards on Thursday afternoon, it will have been approximately 557 days since he last toed a big-league rubber. He missed the entirety of the shortened 2020 campaign after being diagnosed with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) following a bout with COVID-19 last summer.

“It will mean a lot because of everything I went through last year,” Rodriguez told reporters Wednesday. “I just was happy to have the opportunity to be back in baseball and be back to start tomorrow.”

Rodriguez, who owns a lifetime 2.60 ERA in nine career starts at Camden Yards, will not be capped by a pitch or inning limit on Thursday, though the expectation is that Cora and Co. will take a conservative approach with him given the circumstances.

Regardless of that, it goes without saying that Rodriguez’s highly-anticipated season debut has been a long time coming. He will look to lead the Sox to their fourth consecutive victory on Thursday.

The reason the Red Sox were able to activate Rodriguez on Thursday without making a corresponding roster move is because the club optioned right-hander Tanner Houck to the alternate training site in Worcester on Tuesday night.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Red Sox option Tanner Houck to Worcester: Chaim Bloom says rookie right-hander ‘is a capable major-league starting pitcher right now, but that doesn’t mean he’s a finished product’

The Red Sox optioning rookie right-hander Tanner Houck to the alternate training site in Worcester on Wednesday did not come as much of a surprise.

With Eduardo Rodriguez set to make his season debut against the Orioles on Thursday, the Sox needed to open up a roster spot in order to activate the left-hander from the injured list.

Considering the fact that Houck has minor-league options and Boston’s starting rotation already consists of Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, and Martin Perez, optioning the young righty seemed like the most logical step to take so that Rodriguez could be slotted back into the rotation.

Since being called up by the Red Sox for the first time last September, Houck has posted a 1.17 ERA and 2.51 FIP over five outings (four starts) and 23 innings pitched. That includes his first start of the 2021 season against the Orioles over the weekend in which he gave up three runs (two earned) over five innings as well as a relief appearance in the 11th inning of Tuesday’s contest against the Rays in which he allowed one unearned run in one inning of work.

To say the 24-year-old out of Collinsville, Ill. has gotten his big-league career off to an impressive start would be an understatement, but the Sox still feel as though there are some things he can improve upon.

“Tanner pitched great, both in his start and his appearance out of the bullpen,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato on Wednesday. “Simply put, this is about depth. We’re fortunate to have five guys we feel are good and capable major league starters. Tanner, we feel, is a sixth. We want to keep them all starting and keep them all pitching.”

Bloom acknowledged that while Boston’s starting rotation is set for the time being, injuries are inevitable and having Houck available to come up from Worcester could prove to be extremely valuable.

While Houck will be limited to just throwing bullpen sessions and in simulated games at Polar Park for the time being before the minor-league season begins next month, one aspect of his game the Sox would like to see the former first-round pick build on is continuing to develop a third pitch.

That third pitch, a splitter, is one that is still relatively new to the 6-foot-5, 218 pound hurler. Of the 100 pitches the righty has thrown so far this season, only three have been splitters.

“I think Tanner Houck is a capable major league starting pitcher right now, but that doesn’t mean he’s a finished product,” Bloom told Mastrodonato. “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.”

To put it simply, Houck is still “a work in progress” in the Red Sox’ eyes.. The hope is that he will be able to make more developmental strides while at the alternate site before being called upon once again.

“Keep working on his craft, on his pitches,” Red Sox manager Alex said in regards to what Houck can do to improve in Worcester. “Keep throwing strikes. Keep developing his secondary pitches. And just be ready. That’s all he needs to do. Where we’re at right now, we knew that this was going to happen. You look at the guys that have pitched for us, they’ve done an amazing job. And the difference between this team and last year — and even 2019 — we’re a lot deeper.

“He was a professional when we talked to him,” Cora continued. “He understands. Whenever we need him, he’ll be here and he’ll perform.”

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox option rookie right-hander Tanner Houck to alternate training site

The Red Sox have optioned rookie right-hander Tanner Houck to their alternate training site in Worcester, the team announced prior to Wednesday’s game against the Rays.

The move to option Houck comes as no surprise with Eduardo Rodriguez slated to be activated from the injured list and make his first start of the season against the Orioles on Thursday.

Houck, who turns 25 in June, was initially slated to open the year at the Sox’ alternate training site out of spring training, but Rodriguez being placed on the IL due to elbow inflammation led to the righty breaking camp as the team’s No. 2 starter.

In his first start of the season, which came against Baltimore this past Saturday, Houck yielded three runs — two of which were earned — on six hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts over five innings of work.

He also allowed one unearned run while working the 11th inning of Tuesday’s 6-5, extra-innings win over Tampa Bay.

Since making his major-league debut last September, the former first-round draft pick has posted a 1.17 ERA, a 2.51 FIP, and a 31:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in five outings (four starts) spanning 23 innings pitched for the Sox.

Despite the success Houck has been enjoying at the big-league level thus far, the Red Sox still feel like the 6-foot-5, 218 pound hurler has some work to do in regards to his development. A prime example of this would be to continue working on his third pitch: a splitter.

“It all depends on what you mean check all the boxes,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters Tuesday (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) in regards to why Houck was going to be sent down. “You can be successful here but that doesn’t mean you have checked all your boxes from our end. And you can keep getting better.”

Another reason why the Sox are sending down Houck is because of the starters they already have on their roster.

With Rodriguez set to make his return to the mound on Thursday, Boston’s starting rotation will consist of Nathan Eovaldi, Rodriguez, Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, and Martin Perez.

Because Cora and Co. are not currently considering the use of a six-man rotation, Houck becomes the odd man out and will instead serve as rotation depth in Worcester.

Per Cotillo, “the expectation is that Houck will come up and start games later in the year if one of the veteran starters is injured or struggles.”

Until then, he will be limited to simulated games and bullpen sessions at the alternate site at Polar Park before the Worcester Red Sox begin their season in May.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Eduardo Rodriguez to make season debut against Orioles on Thursday, Alex Cora says

Eduardo Rodriguez will make his season debut for the Red Sox in their series-opening contest against the Orioles in Baltimore on Thursday, manager Alex Cora announced Tuesday.

Rodriguez, who experienced “dead arm” during the late stages of spring training, began the 2021 campaign on the 10-day injured list due to left elbow inflammation.

The left-hander most recently threw a bullpen session on Monday, and the results of that bullpen session surely played a role in the decision to activate him in the coming days.

“Eduardo feels good,” Cora said via Zoom. “He’s going to join us in Baltimore. He’s going to start the first game in Baltimore. We feel good about him. He threw a good bullpen yesterday, so that’s where we’re at. He’s slated to pitch on Thursday.

Rodriguez, who turns 28 on Wednesday, was initially slated to be Boston’s Opening Day starter, but he was scratched — and later shelved — from that start because of the aforementioned dead arm.

The Sox placed the Venezuelan hurler on the injured list on April 1, but backdated the beginning of the stint to March 29, which now allows Rodriguez to be activated from the IL this coming Thursday.

Having last pitched in a competitive game on March 22, one might expect the Red Sox to ease Rodriguez into things in regards to a pitch or innings limit in his first start of the season later this week, but Cora indicated that will not be the case.

“We’ll take care of him,” the Sox skipper said. “But, there’s not like a hard number that we have. We do believe that he’s ready to go — go deep into the game. So that’s the most important thing. If it was something that it was going to be short, like he wasn’t ready to go five or six [innings], we would probably think about the decision. But we do believe that he can go deep into the game.”

While Rodriguez was sidelined to begin the season, rookie right-hander Tanner Houck started in the lefty’s place against the Orioles on Saturday.

Over five innings of work in that contest, Houck yielded three runs — two of which were earned — on six hits and one walk to go along with eight strikeouts.

It was yet another solid performance for the 24-year-old, who now owns an ERA of 1.23 through his first four big-league starts. But it would appear that he will be headed back down to the alternate training site in Worcester in spite of that.

“You can be successful here but it doesn’t mean you’ve checked all the boxes from our end, and you can keep getting better” Cora said of Houck. “We haven’t made a decision yet, so we’ll wait.”

Between now and and the time Rodriguez is presumably activated from the injured list before Thursday’s game against Baltimore, Houck will move to the bullpen and will be available to pitch in relief in Tuesday night’s contest against the Rays at Fenway Park.

As MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith put it, though, “don’t expect the Red Sox to use Houck as a reliever for any extended period of time. The Red Sox want him to remain a starter and keep working on the development of his splitter.”

Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush said as much when discussing Houck’s development as a starter back in February.

“The split was new for him last year so he was relatively inexperienced with it,” Bush told reporters at the time. “He didn’t use it a whole lot in the big leagues. He’s going to have to. If he’s going to be a consistent big-league starter over time, he’s going to need a quality third pitch. He knows that and that’s probably been on the top of the list.

“Continuing to work on that to the point where he feels comfortable and confident attacking the zone with it and throwing it whenever he needs to,” continued Bush. “Also, generally, pitch command. Something he has worked on all through the minors is just throwing more strikes, being more consistent in the zone and being able to work ahead in the count so he can use his slider and his other off-speed pitches to get guys out.”

In Saturday’s start against the Orioles, 54 of the 85 pitches Houck threw went for strikes. Of those 85 pitches, 32 were sliders, 32 were four-seam fastballs, 18 were sinkers, and three were splitters.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

3 positive takeaways from an otherwise disastrous opening weekend for the Red Sox

In case you missed it, the Red Sox got swept by the Orioles over the weekend to kick off the 2021 season, marking the first time since 2012 they have started a season by losing three straight out of the gates.

It’s also the first time since 1948 that they have started the home portion of their schedule with three consecutive losses at Fenway Park.

In the process of getting swept by the O’s these last three days, the Sox never held a lead, went a collective 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position, and were outscored 18-5 over 27 total innings.

To put it simply, Boston’s 2021 campaign is off to a rather disastrous start, but it is still early, meaning there is time to turn things around.

Taking that optimistic outlook into consideration, there were still some positives the Red Sox can take away from their first series of the year. Here are three of them:

Tanner Houck picks up where he left off in 2021 debut

Tanner Houck (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Pitching with family members in attendance for the first time as a major-leaguer, Tanner Houck carried over the success he enjoyed last September (0.53 ERA in three starts) into his first start of the 2021 season on Saturday.

Starting in place of the injured Eduardo Rodriguez (left elbow inflammation), the 24-year-old surrendered three runs — two of which were earned) on six hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts, though his line was not indicative as to how well he pitched on account of some sloppy defense behind him.

“He did a good job,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said about the righty. “He was good. Velocity was up, moving all the pitches. He did an outstanding job. Good fastball up in the zone, controlled his emotions. He did an amazing job for us.”

Despite the strong performance on Saturday, there is no guarantee that Houck will make his next start the next time through Boston’s rotation. That all depends on if Rodriguez, who threw a simulated game in Worcester on Friday, is ready to return to action later this week.

Garrett Whitlock shines in major-league debut

Garrett Whitlock (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

After being selected by the Red Sox from the Yankees in the major-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, Garrett Whitlock emerged as one of the stories of spring training out of Fort Myers.

The 24-year-old allowed just one run over four Grapefruit League appearances this spring on his way to making the Sox’ Opening Day roster.

On Sunday, Whitlock made his big-league debut, pitching in relief of Garrett Richards and Josh Taylor, who combined to surrender 10 runs to the Orioles in just 2 2/3 innings of work.

Coming on with two outs and runners at every base in the top half of the third, the right-hander got out of the jam by getting Maikel Franco to fly out to right field. He then proceeded to retire nine of the next 12 hitters he faced while striking out five and not walking a single batter.

Per Red Sox Notes, Whitlock became the first Red Sox pitcher ever to allow zero runs, zero walks, and punch out five-plus hitters in a big-league debut. 39 of the 59 pitches he threw went for strikes.

Sunday’s outing marked Whitlock’s first time pitching in a competitive (non-spring training) environment since undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2019. He had never pitched above Double-A prior to going under the knife.

“It was a dream come true,” the Alabama native — who had his mother and wife on hand to watch him –said in regards to making his major-league debut on Sunday. “It was an honor to be wearing the Red Sox name making that dream come true. I just can’t thank everyone with the Red Sox enough for giving me a chance.”

Of the 59 pitches Whitlock threw on Sunday, 44 were two-seam fastballs, 13 were changeups, and two were sliders. Seven of the eight swings-and-misses he induced on the day came on the two-seamer.

“He was good,” said Cora. “He pounded the strike zone, used his fastball up, mixed up his offspeed pitches. It was fun to watch.”

J.D. Martinez off to hot start at the plate

J.D. Martinez (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

While the majority of the Red Sox lineup stumbled out of the gate against Orioles pitching over the weekend, J.D. Martinez did not.

Following a 2-for-4 showing in which he crushed his first home run of the season on Sunday, the 33-year-old slugger is now 6-for-12 with that one homer, three doubles, three RBI, and two runs scored to kick off his 2021 campaign.

The homer he hit on Sunday — which traveled 429 feet to dead center field off a 92 mph fastball from Bruce Zimmermann — was the 239th of Martinez’s career.

For Martinez, who would surely like to put a dismal 2020 season (seven homers, .680 OPS in 54 games) behind him, what he did over the weekend was a great place to start.

“He’s such a workaholic,” Cora said of the three-time All-Star. “In spring training, we saw him swinging and swinging and swinging, chasing pitches. All of the sudden, boom. The strike zone gets smaller, he gets pitches he can handle and he’s driving the ball. That was a good pitch down in the zone and he put a good swing on it It’s good to see him start off this way.”

So for how miserable of an opening series the Red Sox had, there were still some bright spots that indicate that this team may be better than the slow start they have gotten off to would show.

Coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Orioles, though, things do no get any easier for the Sox with the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays coming into town for another three-game set that begins on Monday night.

If Boston wants to show that they can compete and play winning baseball at Fenway Park, they will need to turn things around quickly or otherwise risk falling out of contention much sooner than anticipated.

“We know where we’re at. It wasn’t a good weekend,” Cora said on Sunday. “But at the end of the day, it’s only three games. We have a chance to come tomorrow and do it again. We have to be better. Like I said, we have stuff to work on. I still feel the same way about the team five days ago than right now. We have a good team, but we still have to work, and work for our stuff.

“We just got to be ready,” he added. “And the goal whether it’s Baltimore, Tampa, or Seattle, it doesn’t matter. You try to win the series. So tomorrow is a new series. We got a chance to win it and we’ll go at it.”

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Tanner Houck fans 8 over 5 strong innings, but Red Sox go down quietly to Orioles, 4-2, to begin year 0-2

For the second consecutive day, the Red Sox failed to capitalize on a strong outing from their starter as they dropped their second straight to the Orioles by a final score of 4-2 on Saturday afternoon.

Tanner Houck was that starter for the Sox in this one, and the right-hander impressed in his 2021 debut by yielding three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts over five innings of work.

The first two of those three Baltimore runs came in to score in the top half of the fourth, when after retiring 11 of the first 13 hitters he faced, Houck issued a two-out walk to Rio Ruiz, which was followed by a single from Austin Hays that put runners on the corners due to a Rafael Devers throwing error.

Kevin Plawecki, catching in place of Christian Vazquez on Saturday, then proceeded to allow a passed ball by him, and Maikel Franco took full advantage of that by ripping a two-run single through the left side of the infield to get his side on the board first.

An inning later, more sloppy defense from the Sox infielders did them no favors, as Xander Bogaerts struggled to field a two-out ground ball off the bat of Anthony Santander that in turn allowed Pedro Severino to score from third to make it a 3-0 contest.

Houck managed to fan the final man he faced in fellow rookie sensation Ryan Mountcastle on five pitches to retire the side, but the damage had already been done.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 85 (54 strikes), the 24-year-old hurler turned to his slider and four-seam fastball a combined 76% of the time he was on the mound Saturday. He induced six swings-and-misses with his slider and topped out at 94.7 mph with his four-seamer.

Ultimately hit with his first career losing decision despite the strong showing, Houck’s next start for Boston might not come for a while seeing how he was filling in for Eduardo Rodriguez in this one.

In relief of Houck, Austin Brice got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen and tossed a scoreless sixth inning, while left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez surrendered one run on two hits in the seventh and Phillips Valdez worked two perfect frames in the eighth and ninth in what was his 2021 debut.

All in all, the Sox pitching staff had themselves another decent day, but their lineup — in addition to their defense — did them no favors.

Coming off an Opening Day loss in which they were held to one hit by O’s starter John Means, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against veteran right-hander Matt Harvey on Friday.

Like Means, Harvey was solid to start things out in this one as he stranded just a pair of base runners through his first three innings of the afternoon.

Unlike Means, though, the 32-year-old hurler finally cracked in the bottom half of the fourth when a sacrifice fly from Marwin Gonzalez brought in J.D. Martinez from third to plate Boston’s first run of the contest — and the new season — to cut their deficit in half at 2-1.

Martinez came through once more in his next trip to the plate an inning later, as the slugger managed to drive in Plawecki all the way from second base on an infield RBI single.

Martinez’s first run-scoring knock of the year brought Boston back to within one run of Baltimore at 3-2, but two runs was all they could manage the rest of the way despite making things interesting in the ninth. 4-2 would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox are off to an 0-2 start for the first time since 2012. They went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and are being outscored by an average score of 3.5 to 1 thus far.

J.D. Martinez has collected four hits through his first two starts of the season. Bobby Dalbec, meanwhile, has struck out four times through his first two starts of the season.

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game weekend set on Sunday.

Right-hander Garrett Richards will be making his Sox debut after signing a one-year, $10 million deal with the club in February. He will be opposed by Orioles rookie left-hander and Baltimore native Bruce Zimmermann.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will once again be going for their first win of the season.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox recall Tanner Houck from alternate training site; right-hander will start against Orioles on Saturday; ‘He’s in a good position now to come here and contribute,’ Alex Cora says

Throughout the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the Red Sox did not have the starting rotation depth they have now as they prepare to embark upon the 2021 campaign.

That much was made clear when upon placing left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez on the 10-day injured list due to left elbow inflammation on Thursday, the club recalled right-hander Tanner Houck from its alternate training site.

Houck, currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 8 prospect in Boston’s farm system, had an up-and-down spring for the Sox, posting a 5.04 ERA over four outings — two of which were starts — and 10 2/3 innings pitched in Grapefruit League play.

The 24-year-old hurler had come into big-league camp vying for a spot in the Red Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation after impressing in a brief cameo (0.53 ERA in three starts) with the club last September.

“I still remember him pitching last year and reading about how he’s supposed to be on the Opening Day roster next year, and he was going to help us — or that point them — out to be better,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Houck on Thursday. “Well, you know what? He was going to start the year in Triple-A. And right away, we need a guy, and it’s Tanner Houck. So, I think that’s a lot better than what happened in ’19 and obviously what happened in ’20.”

Houck’s best outing of the spring was actually his very last one, and his first after being optioned to the alternate site nearly two weeks prior.

Working against the Braves in North Port on March 29, the 6-foot-5, 230 pound righty tossed 4 1/3 scoreless frames while scattering just two hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts on the afternoon.

“Just watching him pitch the last one, him knowing the situation, you could tell he breathed,” Cora said. “It felt like, early in camp he was trying to impress someone. I told him before it started, ‘You just go out there and pitch.’ But the velocity was way up, he was out of his delivery. We haven’t talked about it, but he felt like he was off.

“The last one, he was under control, just throwing his sinker, and his four-seamer up, and the slider,” added Cora. “That was a good lineup, too. And there were some bad swings. But I think the comfort level — and it’s not that he was uncomfortable early on — but he was trying to do more, and that’s part of the learning process.”

Houck may have not been in Boston’s original starting rotation plans as of two weeks ago, but circumstances change and the former first-round draft pick is now scheduled to make his first start of the season against the Orioles at Fenway Park on Saturday.

Upon getting called up for the first time last year, Houck was unable to have any of his family in the stands to watch him pitch on account of COVID-19 protocols. That will change this weekend, as a few of the former Missouri Tiger’s relatives will be on hand to watch him pitch in-person for the first time in quite a while.

“He’s going to be excited on Saturday because he’s going to pitch in front of his family for the first time as a big-leaguer,” said Cora. “But I think he’s in a good position now to come here and contribute.”

Houck will be matched up against Orioles right-hander Matt Harvey on Saturday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox unveil Opening Day roster, place Eduardo Rodriguez, Ryan Brasier on injured list and recall Tanner Houck from alternate training site

The Red Sox unveiled their 26-man Opening Day roster on Thursday and in doing so placed two pitchers on the injured list.

Both left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (left elbow inflammation) and right-hander Ryan Brasier (left calf strain) were placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to March 29.

Lefty Chris Sale (Tommy John surgery) will also begin the year on the injured list alongside Rodriguez and Brasier.

In place of Rodriguez, righty Tanner Houck was recalled from the Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester. The 24-year-old hurler will make his first start of the season on Saturday.

The Red Sox will go into the 2021 season with 14 pitchers and 12 position players on their major-league roster to start things out in the first of three against the Orioles on Friday afternoon.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox option right-hander Tanner Houck to alternate training site

Following their 9-1 victory over the Twins on Wednesday, the Red Sox made their fifth round of spring roster cuts and, perhaps most significantly, optioned right-hander Tanner Houck to their alternate training site in Worcester.

The lone member of Boston’s 40-man roster involved in these moves, Houck was seen as a potential candidate to crack the team’s Opening Day starting rotation, but that no longer appears to be the case.

The 24-year-old righty impressed upon getting called up by the Sox last September, posting a 0.53 ERA and 3.25 FIP over his first three starts and 17 innings pitched in the majors.

Spring training thus far has been a different story for Houck, though, as the former first-round draft pick has struggled with his command to the tune of a 4:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

He has also yielded six earned runs in just 6 1/3 innings of work through his first three appearances of the spring.

Given those struggles, as well as the fact that the club has adequate, upper-level rotation depth in the form of Matt Andriese and Garrett Whitlock, the Sox will let Houck continue to develop at the alternate site to start the new season.

This does not mean that Houck — currently regarded by Baseball America as the Red Sox’ No. 7 prospect — won’t pitch in Boston this year; it just means that his 2021 debut may come later than some may have expected.

In addition to Houck being optioned, the Sox also reassigned seven players — right-hander Daniel Gossett, left-hander Stephen Gonsalves, catcher Kole Cottam, first basemen Triston Casas and Josh Ockimey, and outfielders Jarren Duran and Yairo Munoz — to minor-league camp.

This flurry of transactions leaves the Red Sox with 35 players on their major-league spring training roster. That number does not include Chris Sale or Franchy Cordero, who both remain on the injured list.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Ranking the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2021 season

The Red Sox are heading into the 2021 season with the 20th-ranked farm system in baseball according to Baseball America. That’s the same ranking they received going into the 2020 campaign as well.

Despite finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball last year at 24-36, the 2020 season did net some positives for the Sox in terms of producing new, young, and controllable talent.

Just in terms of prospects, Boston acquired the likes of right-hander Connor Seabold from the Phillies, right-hander Jacob Wallace from the Rockies, and infielder Hudson Potts and outfielder Jeisson Rosario from the Padres.

They also drafted infielders Nick Yorke and Blaze Jordan and righties Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland with their four picks in last year’s amateur draft.

From the time the 2021 season ended until now, the Sox have added the likes of catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, infielders Christian Koss and Nick Sogard, right-handers Garrett Whitlock, Frank German, Josh Winckowski, and Zach Bryant.

To put it simply, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has not only addressed his club’s depth at the major-league level; he’s done it on the minor-league side of things as well.

Taking that point into consideration, it would not be too shocking to see Boston rise through the farm system rankings this year, especially with someone like Yorke getting to play in actual, organized minor-league games at some point.

Having written all that, I would like to present to you who the experts believe are the top prospects in the Red Sox organization at the moment.

To compile this list of Boston’s brightest and youngest talent, I took prospect lists from four baseball or Red Sox-centered publications — Baseball America, SoxProspects.com, FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline — and took the averages of where each of these sites had particular prospects ranked.

For example, Triston Casas was regarded as the Sox’ top prospect by three sites, but the other had him as their No. 2 prospect in the system.

With those numbers in mind, I added 1+1+1+2 to get 5, then divided that number by the total number of sources (4) to get Casas’ average ranking: 1.25, which rounds down to 1.

I hope that makes sense, because here are the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system based off that math heading into the 2021 season.

ProspectBaseball AmericaSoxProspectsFanGraphsMLB PipelineAverage Rank
Triston Casas11211
Jeter Downs22122
Bryan Mata43353
Jarren Duran54744
Bobby Dalbec36935
Gilberto Jimenez75466
Tanner Houck87677
Jay Groome6121288
Thaddeus Ward10813109
Noah Song121151410
Connor Seabold11981511
Nick Yorke91315912
Ronaldo HernandezN/A14N/A1213
Brainer Bonaci1815171614
Aldo Ramirez2210142015
Blaze Jordan1620211116
Matthew Lugo1417281317
Brayan Bello1923111918
Connor Wong1522191719
Jeisson Rosario2016162220
Hudson Potts2418182421
Eduard Bazardo2827102822
Chris Murphy1319431823
Jonathan Arauz2126N/AN/A24
Nick Decker2921242325
Jacob Wallace2524262926
Frank GermanN/A2825N/A27
Garrett Whitlock 1732303028
Chih-Jung Liu2334332129
Durbin FeltmanN/A3031N/A30
Cameron CannonN/A43232631
Ryan ZeferjahnN/A2538N/A32
Jorge RodriguezN/A2934N/A33
Juan ChaconN/A52222534
A.J. Politi2749372735
Ceddanne Rafaela2645N/AN/A36
Jeremy Wu-Yelland30N/A47N/A37
*The N/A you see next to some of these names means that that particular prospect was not included on a specific site’s list.

All in all, it’s not too shocking to see Casas, Jeter Downs, Bryan Mata, Jarren Duran, and Bobby Dalbec come in as the Red Sox’ top five prospects, though Dalbec is surely going to graduate from his prospect status this year.

The same can be said about right-hander Tanner Houck, who comes in at No. 7 on this list.

Other names worth mentioning include outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (No. 6), right-hander Noah Song (No. 10), infielder Brainer Bonaci (No. 14), catcher Connor Wong (No. 19), right-hander Eduard Bazardo (No. 22), right-hander Chih-Jung Liu (No. 29), and outfielder Juan Chacon (No. 34).

One notable snub on here would be 17-year-old outfielder Miguel Bleis, who the Red Sox recently signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5 million back in January.

Because I made this list myself, I cannot say with certainty that it is perfect. But, I enjoyed compiling the information to create it, and I hope it can serve as some use to those who find this sort of thing interesting.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)