Tanner Houck Making Convincing Push For Red Sox Starting Role

'I just go out there and put my best foot forward each time I get the ball'


Apr 20, 2023

In a season where consistency on the pitching staff has been nearly non-existent, Tanner Houck has been an outlier for the Red Sox.

Boston has 20 games under its belt following Thursday’s win over the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park. In those games, the Red Sox pitching staff has precisely three quality starts and five wins from its group of starters. Houck is now responsible for three of those victories, compiling a 3-0 record, 4.29 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 21 innings across four starts.

The weird thing? He’s not even supposed to be a starter.

The Red Sox’s initial plan was for Houck to play the “Garrett Whitlock role” in the bullpen, with Whitlock set to join the likes of Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Nick Pivetta, Brayan Bello and (perhaps) James Paxton in the rotation. Well, injuries to half of those hurlers have kept Houck in the starting rotation, where he has excelled despite not changing his approach.

“I think for me, I just go out there and put my best foot forward each time I get the ball,” Houck said Thursday, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “Regardless of the situation, regardless of starting. Whatever it is, go out there and put a quality product on the field and let them make the decision from there. That’s all you can really do.”

The decision is becoming harder and harder for the Red Sox. Not only has Houck been Boston’s most consistent starter, but the organization has seen Paxton struggle to make a return and Kluber struggle to, well, pitch.

That’s not even to mention Houck’s development of a brand new pitch, that works especially well in his pursuit of success the second time through the order.

“As a starter, (the cutter) is huge,” Houck said. “It helps set up my two best pitches between the sinker and the slider. It just gets (hitters) off those two, it gets lefties off the sinker a little bit more. The splitter obviously adds a little bit of a different element as well that they have to respect. I’m just continuing to work, continuing to push myself year after year. It’s not the end yet. I still have plenty of room to grow, but heading in the right direction for sure.”

That direction, if Houck continues his current path, could be straight toward the middle of the Red Sox rotation.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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