With the start of spring training games just around the corner, Red Sox Nation is eager to catch a glimpse of the new additions to the team and the seasoned veterans who are returning for another year. And, while it seems like Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Garrett Whitlock, Brayan Bello, and James Paxton are the most likely candidates for the Red Sox rotation, Tanner Houck's role remains unclear.
Red Sox pitcher Tanner Houck's most valuable attribute is his versatility
The current plan is likely for Houck to start the season in the bullpen and keep him stretched out as a multi-inning option; this will make him even more valuable if the rotation suffers anywhere near as many health-related setbacks as it did last season. Despite his apparent value, Tanner Houck was rumored to be a potential trade chip for the Red Sox. However, no trade ultimately came to fruition and he's now in Fort Myers working out with the team.
Houck, age 26, relies primarily on his slider, sinker, and 4-seam fastball, and he has found success as both a starter and reliever since his MLB debut in 2020. A review of Houck's Baseball Reference page provides greater insight, showing he owns a 3.22 ERA from pitching 92.1 innings over 20 games as a starter, compared to the 2.68 ERA he holds from 33 games (53.2 innings) of relief work.
Other interesting notes from Houck's career stats and splits include his success when facing right-handed batters (2.11 ERA) compared to lefties (4.98 ERA), as well as his higher K/9 rate as a starter (10.4) than as a reliever (9.6.)
So, now what? The Red Sox have seemingly limitless options with Tanner Houck, which is the best possible problem. If they stick with the current plan to have Houck stretched out as a multi-inning weapon, it provides an excellent insurance policy against any unforeseen circumstances that could occur regarding the rest of the active roster.
There is even talk of the Red Sox potentially utilizing a 6-man rotation, in which Houck could fit nicely. Should he not be traded and his services as a starter not be required, then the Red Sox find themselves equipped with the ideal bullpen man, built to endure long-inning relief, save opportunities, and everything in between.
What the 2023 Boston Red Sox season will bring us, no one knows. But I am even more excited to find out with versatile players like Tanner Houck on the team. Let's go, Sox!