Tanner Houck Makes Big Proclamation Ahead Of 2022 Red Sox Season

Houck impressed in 2020 and 2021. He thinks he'll be even better in 2022

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January 10

Hopes always had been high for Tanner Houck, but the biggest concern around his development was the Boston Red Sox hurler’s need for a true fourth pitch.

He thinks he’s found it.

Houck historically had leaned on his two fastballs and slider, which was fine out of the bullpen but made him increasingly predictable as a starter. He toyed with a splitter during big-league action in 2021, but it wasn’t until later in the season that it started to play like a true fourth pitch.

Now, Houck is working out with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer this offseason, and he’s been putting heavy emphasis on developing that splitter.

“The biggest thing before was not having a true secondary offspeed pitch that can also compliment the slider,” Houck told WEEI’s Rob Bradford on the “Live BP Show.” “I think the splitter is an incredible pitch to pair with that, especially where it was last year whenever I was throwing it about 84-87 mph. The year prior, whenever I first started throwing it, it was 89-91, maybe 92. My two-seam fastball is anywhere between 91-93, four-seam fastball is like 93-95, so in my opinion the splitter was too close a movement profile to the two-seam and in velocity. But at the end of the year when I was throwing it and it was like 85, 87, good movement, I thought, OK, that’s a good separation in terms of velo off of the fastball. And, yes, still similar movement profile, but the velo is enough that they can’t just sit on that anymore — and also they have to respect the four-seam, the two-seam and then the slider.”

The previous three-pitch mix allowed for teams to get the book on him by the second, and certainly third, trip through the order. As he becomes a Major League regular, Houck is going to see teams increasingly frequently, especially American League East sides.

That ratcheted up the need for that fourth pitch.

“Just growing and really getting myself prepared for the longevity of the season and just knowing that I’m going to face the Yankees, the Blue Jays, the Rays, the Orioles, I’m going to face those teams probably three times, four times, whatever it ends up being however stuff lines up,” Houck said. “But after the second time, third time seeing you throughout an entire season, they’ve seen every trick in the bag that I have. So it’s just about growing and adapting.”

Then, he delivered the line that will excite Red Sox fans.

“And that’s why I think I am where I am, and why I think 2022 will be my best year. (It) is because seeing the potential of these pitches, I’m honestly just throwing myself into the fire to learn and grow with.”

Houck figures to be a big part of the starting rotation next season with Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Pivetta. In 2021, his first full big league campaign, Houck made 18 appearances (13 starts), posting a 1-5 record (that really isn’t reflective of how well he pitched) and a 3.52 ERA.

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