Red Sox Notes: What Makes Tanner Houck Better Pitcher Now Than April

'I'll say it for the rest of my life: I don't want to take anything away from this team'

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July 16, 2021

Tanner Houck certainly made his presence felt Friday night in the final three innings of the Red Sox’s 4-0 win over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

The Boston pitcher tossed three scoreless innings, giving up just one hit and a walk, striking out three along the way to earn the save. It certainly was a welcome sight considering the bullpen has struggled at times, and Houck has had plenty of hype surrounding him dating back to last year.

One thing with Houck, though — when he was recalled in April, he had just two pitches. And while that’s not necessarily a problem, he knew in order to be effective, a third pitch had to developed.

And that’s exactly what makes him (rightfully) believe he is a better pitcher in July than he was in April.

“Just adding another pitch,” Houck said after the game over Zoom. “I threw splitters tonight, that’s obviously the pitch I’ve been working on for a while now. And being able to break it out today was another confidence booster getting that worked in there. Having the four-seam a few years ago, as well, is another thing where, looking back even to college, I was two-seam, slider pitcher. I was two-pitch mix, now I’ve added a few other pitches that i’ve steadily grown a lot of confidence with. And I think that’s truly the difference between where I was and where I am now.”

Houck is slated to make a start next week against the Toronto Blue Jays, but the righty is ready to step up wherever the Red Sox may need him to fill in.

“I’ll say it for the rest of my life: I don’t want to take anything away from this team,” Houck said. “And whatever they call upon me to do, that’s what I’m gonna do. I’ll step up and do whatever role they need me to do.”

And being able to go from the bullpen to a starter role is something Houck sees as a benefit.

“I compare it to a position player playing shortstop, second base, first base, outfield. Kiké (Hernández) does it a lot, Marwin (Gonzalez), (Danny) Santana. Those are just a few,” he said. “And having pitchers who can do it, why not? You got long relief guys that can come in and eat three, four five innings, whatever it is. So I think being a pitcher that can transition to the bullpen quickly or transition to a starter role just as quick I think is a benefit to the team.”

Here are some other notes from Friday’s Red Sox-Yankees game:

— Eduardo Rodriguez started the second half of the season on a high note.

The southpaw went 5 2/3 innings of scoreless ball with two hits and as many walks with eight strikeouts.

“The last couple starts have been really good for me, so I just have to keep going with that,” Rodriguez said over Zoom.

— Manager Alex Cora compared the lefty’s outing to that of the E-Rod fans saw during his 19-win 2019 season.

“Little by little he put his pieces together, and now he’s the guy he saw in ’19,” Cora said.

— The Red Sox are having great success against the Yankees this season, to say the least.

Boston now has won seven straight games against New York, something that hasn’t been done since the 2011 season, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

— Christian Arroyo is proving he wants to stay in Boston’s lineup.

Arroyo started at second base Friday and went 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs, which came when he blasted a two-run homer in the top half of the second inning.

“When he’s using the big part of the ballpark he becomes very dangerous,” Cora said. “… When he’s not trying to do too much, he is that good. I keep saying this kid, he was a first-round pick, and those guys are special. There’s a reason you get selected in the first round. … We’ve been patient with him, he’s done a great job. He’s a guy that, he’s been amazing in the first half of the season and today was a great start (to the second half.)

His two hits led the way for Boston.

— The Red Sox can win the series Saturday night. Nathan Eovaldi is expected to get the ball opposite of Gerrit Cole at 7:15 p.m. ET.

Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images
Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez
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