Red Sox News: Chris Sale impressed with young righty Tanner Houck
Red Sox ace Chris Sale held a presser with the media this morning
“He went out and did the damn thing,” is what Red Sox ace Chris Sale had to say when asked about Tanner Houck’s solid showing at the tail end of 2020. That is a pretty flattering compliment to receive in confidence from a seven-time All-Star. The question also referenced a video of the two pitchers side by side comparing their respective deliveries.
The full press conference regarding Sale and recovery from his Tommy John surgery in the spring of last year can be found here. While Sale did not elaborate on comparing and contrasting himself to Houck directly, he acknowledged that he had seen the video in question and continued to provide words of praise–
"“I’m looking forward to getting to know him and talk some baseball,” Sale said. “On his end, he’s in a good spot. He did everything he could have done last year to help this team win games and get his career off on the right foot,” he noted."
As for the video–
In three starts in 2020, Houck did nothing but impress. He did not allow a single run to score until his third and final start of the season when he allowed just one in a game over three hits. Not to mention the game came against the playoff-bound Atlanta Braves. He eventually earned the winning decision after amassing 10 strikeouts to cap off his first taste of the major leagues with a perfect 3-0 record.
Houck sure looks like he’s got a good opportunity to earn a spot on the roster in some capacity, should his good fortunes from last season carry over this spring. With a wipeout slider to complement his fastball and sinker, he managed to strikeout 21 total batters over those first three starts. Over 82.2 innings pitched in Portland in 2019, he struck out 80 batters. Suffice to say, his ability to get strikeouts was not a fluke after getting a cup of coffee in the major leagues.
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Spring training has officially kicked off with pitchers and catchers reporting yesterday. The abundance of starting pitchers fighting for a spot in the rotation might make matters a little trickier for Houck coming out of the gate. There is a light at the end of the tunnel though, as conversations with both the front office and Alex Cora that the team had been considering utilizing a six-man rotation along with carrying up to 14 pitchers on the roster to start the season.
This could prove beneficial to Houck as he looks to keep the ball rolling and stay on the 26-man roster for the year rather than go back to the minor leagues to start the season. Whether that be in the form of a starting job or out of the bullpen would be up to debate considering the plethora of veteran starting pitchers on the roster at the moment.
While the majority of Sale’s press conference was positive with his elbow recovery progressing steadily, his comments about Houck really said a great deal about how the organization and players alike seem to view the potential in their young starting pitcher. He absolutely made an impression last season and hopes to build off of it. If Chris Sale is in agreement, the fans likely are too.