Red Sox: Tanner Houck’s absence will hurt Boston in Toronto

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 21: Tanner Houck #89 of the Boston Red Sox delivers during the first inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 21, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 21: Tanner Houck #89 of the Boston Red Sox delivers during the first inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 21, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The Red Sox will greatly miss Tanner Houk in Toronto

Well, Red Sox Nation, Boston’s first homestand of 2022 didn’t quite go as planned. Plenty of missed opportunities now have them heading back on the road with a losing record. Luckily, the AL East has stayed relatively tight through the first two weeks of the season so the squad hasn’t been hurt too much. Unfortunately, part of this road trip will bring them to Canada where they won’t be able to use some of their best weapons.

Canada has strict vaccination rules and if you haven’t gotten the COVID vaccine you won’t be permitted to enter the country. For the Red Sox, that was a bigger issue before the season began but they’ll still be without some guys they could desperately need, namely, Tanner Houck. The righty did a hell of a job keeping the dangerous Blue Jays offense at bay yesterday afternoon despite what the box score may say.

Houck had everything working and would finish the day with five innings of work under his belt giving up just two earned on three hits while striking out four and walking just a single batter. I’ll take a line like that each and every start from Tanner and this was his second killer start in a row. Going into the season I think we all wanted to see him succeed in the rotation but his lack of a true third pitch was going to hinder any positive outcomes. Well, it looks like he’s figured something out.

As I mentioned above, the Red Sox now start a monster of a road trip that sees them play three in Tampa Bay beginning tonight, then they jet off to Toronto for four, and finally finish in Baltimore before heading home in May.

Having such a heavy road trip in April is daunting enough, but when you add in the fact that it’s against damn near the entire division, it becomes monumental. You can’t lose the season in April but getting stomped by your rivals early on sure can make things difficult.

But, back to Tanner. Because the righty isn’t vaccinated against COVID he won’t be able to head to the Great White North and the Red Sox will be without one of their better starters so far this season.

Houck told Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe a few days ago that he still wasn’t vaccinated and likely wouldn’t be anytime soon. Obviously, the vaccine is a point of great contention not just in America but in the world as a whole, and it’s going to affect the team.

He isn’t the only one on the roster still unvaccinated as the Red Sox were one of the teams with the lowest rates in the league coming into 2022, but many that weren’t prior to the season have gotten the shot and can travel.

However, it will be a setback not having the righty on the mound against a team he just held relatively silent just hours ago. That’s the kind of thing I’d really like to repeat, especially against a group as scary as the Jays.

In order to balance out the rotation, we may finally see Garrett Whitlock take the mound for a start in Toronto in Tanner’s absence. The Red Sox have been toying with what Whitlock’s future may look like and we very well may get an answer with this experiment.

Garrett has been one of the best relievers in baseball since making his debut in 2021 and it feels like taking him out of that role may not be in the best interest of the team’s success, but we won’t know until we see what he can do.

At the end of the day, not having Houck on the mound puts the Red Sox in a worse position than if he were to start. Through his three starts this season he owns a 3.21 ERA in 14 innings of work. While his K/BB ratio isn’t the prettiest and sits at a concerning 1.57, he currently leads baseball in the fact he hasn’t let a ball out of the park yet. It may not seem like a big thing but looking at the other guys in this rotation, it’s huge.

I won’t lecture or get on a soapbox in regards to the vaccine, at this point, nobody is changing anyone else’s minds on the subject. I’m disappointed that we won’t get to see Tanner pitch in what was his next start. I’ve been a big Houck guy since he showed up at the end of 2020 and want to see him become a quality starter for the foreseeable future. Hopefully missing a scheduled start doesn’t throw off his timing and when he is able to pitch again he’s just as nasty as he has been.

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