Before wrapping up their four-game series against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Thursday, the Red Sox announced they optioned right-hander Tanner Houck following the conclusion of Wednesday night’s doubleheader.
Houck got the start for the Sox in Game 2 of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Jays and was stellar in the club’s 4-1 victory, surrendering just one run on two hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts over four strong innings of work.
Prior to the start of Wednesday’s twin bill, Boston recalled catcher Connor Wong from Triple-A Worcester to serve as the team’s 27th man for both games with Toronto. Wong, however, did not appear in either contest, making it seem as though he would be the one to return to Worcester seeing how he is the third backstop on the major-league roster.
Instead, in a surprising turn of events, Boston opted to send Houck down to the WooSox while keeping Wong up with the big-league club for the time being.
According to Red Sox manager Alex Cora, the decision to option Houck has more to do with roster flexibility as apposed to a demotion or anything like that, as the right-hander will pitch during next Saturday’s (August 7) doubleheader against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
“It’s about roster flexibility,” Cora said Thursday afternoon. “Tanner’s going to pitch in the doubleheader on Saturday in Toronto. We’ve got an off day on Monday (August 2), so for now it makes sense to go somewhere else. But, as you guys know, he’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish — he’s a big part of it already. So, it just happens that roster-wise right now, in the upcoming days, this is where we’re going.”
Since making his major-league debut for the Sox last September, Houck has posted a dazzling 1.62 ERA and 2.38 FIP to go along with 51 strikeouts to just 14 walks over nine total appearances (seven starts) spanning 39 innings pitched.
After opening the 2021 campaign in Boston’s starting rotation, the 25-year-old hurler was optioned to Worcester in late April and wound up getting shut down for approximately six weeks beginning in early May after experiencing flexor muscle soreness in his throwing arm.
After making his return to the WooSox’ rotation on June 17, Houck was called back up by the Red Sox on July 16 to serve in a hybrid role where he could start and pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen when needed.
The former first-round pick twirled three scoreless frames of relief against the Yankees in the Bronx the very same day he was recalled to notch his first career save and has made two starts since then.
Barring an injury on the major-league front, it seems likely that Houck will make one start for Worcester before getting called up once again next Saturday.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, will seemingly role with a five-man starting rotation that consists of Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Richards, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Martin Perez.
Rodriguez will be making his 20th start of the season for Boston opposite fellow southpaw Hyun Jin Ryu in Thursday’s series finale against Torornto.
First pitch (weather permitting) is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.
(Picture of Tanner Houck: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)