Red Sox starter Tanner Houck set to return tomorrow in Worcester
The Red Sox were dealt a hard blow when two of their top pitching stars in Worcester were bit by the injury bug but their luck is about to change. While Boston is still waiting for some of their arms to get healthy, Tanner Houck is set to make his return in Worcester tomorrow. This is big for the club as their rotation has been struggling as of late and a healthy Houck could mean some rest for the starters.
The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams captured some thoughts on Houck from Worcester’s pitching coach, Paul Abbott. He’s very high on the young righty and despite him not making the team out of spring training this year, he still factors in huge to their plans for the future. But getting Houck back at least into the mix with the WooSox they can work on the deficiencies that have kept him away from the Red Sox so far in 2021.
"“He’s a special kid and his attitude has been tremendous,” Abbott said Tuesday. “He’s just rolled with it. There’s nothing he can do except get better and get stronger. He knows there’s plenty of time left to have a good season. He’s using this time to grow, get prepared, and hit the ground running when he does get back.”"
Houck impressed everyone when he was called up to finish off the 2020 season and quickly went 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA, 0.882 WHIP, and 11.1 K/9 in 17 innings pitched. The kid was absolutely awesome to watch and was one of the very few positives to come out of last year’s miserable season. Sadly things haven’t gone as well for the right-hander in 2021 as he’s 0-2 in the Majors and 0-1 in the Minors up to this point. His 4.35 ERA in Boston and 9.00 ERA in Worcester are also far departures from the dominance we saw last fall.
If Tanner can come to have a solid showing with the WooSox over the next few weeks we could possibly see him in the second half if Alex Cora chooses to rest any of his starters to preserve them for October. That of course all falls on if Boston is still in contention by that point which I’m going to go ahead and say that they will be. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Houck called up for a postseason run to give AC more depth and weapons through October.
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The whole story about him being in Triple-A versus the Majors has been built around him needing to add a third pitch and get it tight. While he was able to dominate last year with his fastball/slider combo he also had the benefit of being a new face in the league. Teams now have plenty of tape and know what to expect from him on the mound. Abbott spoke about Tanner adding a splitter into his mix and having it be the focus when he returns so it can be used as much as his already reliable one-two punch.
"“He’s expecting that pitch to really increase in usage and execution,” Abbott said. “So that’s one thing with him coming back, is picking up where he left off and being the guy he was last year.”"
Tanner Houck has been and will again be a big part of this pitching staff once he’s back and totally healthy. Tomorrow is a big step toward his future with the Red Sox and we vary well may see him back up with the big club in 2021 as the year progresses. If he can regain what he had last year and find his strength again then I expect big things from him going forward.