If the Boston Red Sox are going to have a successful 2021, Tanner Houck could be the key to their starting rotation.
The Boston Red Sox find themselves in a difficult spot heading into the 2021 season. They have done little in free agency, with their retention of Martin Perez standing out as their largest contract thus far. Multiple holes exist throughout the lineup, making their quest to pull themselves out of the AL East basement all the more difficult.
Boston’s starting rotation, which had appeared to be a strength heading into last season, is riddled with question marks as well. Perez is a solid back of the rotation arm, but is not exactly a stabilizing force. There are injury concerns around Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, and Nathan Eovaldi. The rotation has more questions than answers at this point.
That makes Tanner Houck all the more important to the Red Sox at this point. He impressed in his brief trial at the end of the 2020 campaign, allowing just two runs, one earned, on six hits and nine walks in his 17 innings, striking out 21 batters,
Chances are, Houck is not the pitcher he appeared to be at the end of last season. After all, his minor league numbers were relatively pedestrian as he posted a 4.08 ERA and a 1.406 WHiP over 249 innings, striking out 243 batters with 114 walks. Those numbers are a far cry from the dominant performance that he produced in his brief major league stint.
Houck essentially dominated by riding his fastball and slider. Both offerings are considered to be above average, with his slider viewed as a plus pitch. However, if he is going to stick in the rotation, he needs to develop his changeup further to make it a viable weapon against left handed hitters. His struggles against lefties in the minors had actually made Houck a candidate to be transferred to a bullpen role in the majors.
That may still happen. Houck had a stellar three game stint at the end of the year, but it remains to be seen how he can perform over a full season. If he can be a solid third option in the rotation, the Red Sox may be able to weather the storm as Sale and Rodriguez look to return to full health.
If that can happen, Tanner Houck will be a key part in the Boston Red Sox success. But that is a big if.