What are the roles of two young Red Sox pitchers?
With closer Matt Barnes falling apart in August and set-up man Adam Ottavino struggling with control, the Red Sox were forced to rely on a pair of rookies down the stretch last season. Tanner Houck helped push the Red Sox into the postseason with five no-hit innings in Game 161, and then threw some critical relief innings during the team’s playoff run. Garrett Whitlock, meanwhile, was a key piece of the team’s success all season long and upped his game to a new level in October.
Despite their dominance in the postseason, their roles moving forward are uncertain. Both Houck and Whitlock have a background in the starting rotation, with Houck making the plurality of his appearances as a starter in 2021 and Whitlock starting 38 games in the Yankees minor league system before coming to Boston in the Rule 5 draft. Despite their successes in late inning relief, both pitchers have the pitch mix and control to think their future may be in the rotation.
This spring will provide clues over what their roles will be this season and beyond. Manager Alex Cora hinted on Sunday that the Red Sox could decide appearances based on matchups rather than assigned role, and with Houck’s and Whitlock’s ability to get both lefties and righties out, they can be two key pieces of that strategy. This spring should provide some clues over what lies ahead in the immediate future for these talented youngsters.