Tanner Houck gives his all in Red Sox disappointment
Today should’ve gone differently than it did and it’s a shame that the Red Sox now find themselves 0-2 in the standings. Today should’ve been the day where the bump in the road that was Opening Day was forgotten and the team turned the page toward the horizon. Unfortunately, today ended much in the same as yesterday did which means Tanner Houck felt the same fate as Nathan Eovaldi with an unearned loss.
Now, the phrase unearned loss isn’t really a thing in sports as a loss is a loss. If the other team scores more than you then they win and you lose, simple as that. But if we were to look at today solely based on the pitching performance of Tanner Houck, then there should absolutely be a tally in the win column. In his first start with the Red Sox in 2021, one that wasn’t originally on the schedule, he pitched an absolute damn gem.
You see, Houck didn’t make the Opening Day roster and was supposed to be in Worcester at the alternate training site, then Eduardo Rodriguez got put on the IL. Toward the end of spring training that fear started to grow surrounding E-Rod and Alex Cora made sure to get Houck another start before camp broke.
It turned out to be a smart move by the third-year skipper as his young righty was more than ready to rock today and he did his best to quiet the Orioles. Houck spoke to the media after his start and was thrilled with how he was able to dominate with his slider today.
"“Being able to throw it for a strike and also being able … to bounce it in the times that I needed,” Houck said about the pitch. “I even threw some backdoor. So being able to kind of do things like that, attack the zone with offspeed is very helpful. It gets them off the fastball.”"
Today was special for Houck in that he didn’t just make his first start for the Red Sox in front of fans, but he made his first start in the Majors in front of his family. For a normal person that pressure could’ve been crippling, not for Tanner. The big righty shut the Orioles down to the tune of 5IP/6H/3R/2ER/1BB/8K/ finishing with a 3.60 ERA. Again, those runs shouldn’t be on his shoulders as his defense failed him miserably. Just ask Nasty Nate about that, he’s got experience.
Rafael Devers did what he does best and made sure to score an error in the field. Add that in with a few other defensive blunders, something that the 2021 Red Sox are proving to be experts at, and Houck’s line got muddy fast.
Yeah, he walked a batter and gave the free pass but his defense should’ve been more than able to bail him out, and they didn’t. This should’ve been a day that allowed him to earn his first win of the year while also getting his first Major League “W,” in front of his family.
So, back to the matter at hand. I wholeheartedly believe that Houck should be in the Red Sox rotation and Cora needs to make that addition right away. Yes, Eduardo should be back next week and who would have to get shuffled out would be tricky, but something needs to be done in order to make room for Tanner in this rotation. At the beginning of spring training, it was reported that Cora was toying with the idea of a six man rotation but he would ultimately rule against it, and I think that mindset has to change.
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Boston currently has 14 pitchers in their 26-man roster with a breakdown of nine relievers and 5 starters. In my opinion, the team doesn’t need to have that many relievers, and sacrificing one would allow them to make room for Houck to remain on the 26-man once E-Rod is ready to come back. Looking at the group in the bullpen to me it’s probably Austin Brice that gets sent down to Worcester. Though he’s done well in his two outings so far in 2021 he’s the one in that crop that I don’t see a specific role for.
Houck had a rough go at it in spring training but even Cora pointed out that it seemed like he was trying a bit too hard to impress while in camp. Once the skipper got in his ear and got him back on point Tanner stifled the Braves in his final spring start and then dominated today. It’s pretty clear that when he goes out there and just does his thing, he’s a major asset to this ballclub. As long as his mind is clear and he has his gameplan set, it’s hard to deny he isn’t a strong member of this rotation.
I’d much rather have another reliable and competent starter in my rotation than a bullpen arm that may or may not be helpful when it matters. Tanner has proven that he can pitch and pitch well at this level. Remember that he went 3-0 in 2020 with a 0.53 ERA in 17.0 IP with an 11.1 K/9 and 0.882 WHIP. He’s more than earned his spot in this rotation, especially after today.
Tanner Houck is a more than proven commodity and some may say that four starts aren’t a large enough sample size to say that, and they’d be wrong. The Red Sox are terrible in regards to fostering starting pitching talent and to have a guy that’s ready to go and not use him to his potential would be another miss by them. There are moves that can be made to add him to the starting rotation and with his track record to this point, Alex Cora should more than think about making that call.