Tanner Houck Determined to Earn Spot in Red Sox 2024 Rotation

Tanner Houck

Getty Images Tanner Houck walks to the dugout after a start against the Orioles

With opening day quickly approaching, the Boston Red Sox starting rotation is full of question marks. One player vying for a spot is Tanner Houck, who has split his time between the rotation and bullpen over the last few years.

During the 2023 campaign, the talented 27-year-old posted a 5.01 ERA in 21 games. While he struck out nearly a batter per inning, opponents hit a career-high .254 against him. As a result, Houck arrived at Fort Myers with an improved arsenal.

How Tanner Houck Has Changed His Game

The main difference in Houck’s game has been an increase in his velocity. Earlier this month, Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters that Houck had added the most velocity out of anyone on the staff.

” No, not by designs at all,” Houck told MLB.com’s Ian Browne when asked about his velocity. ” I think it’s just a factor of being fully healthy and back to my normal self. With that being said, having a good offseason of building a lot of strength definitely also helps with that. So, also very small mechanical changes that I’ve made coming into camp, feel a lot better, feel more directionally sound and more explosive towards the plate.”

While Houck has not had his best velocity so far, he has been sharp. In his spring debut, the St. Louis, Missouri product did not allow a run in two innings. The outing provided a reminder of what Houck can do when he’s at his best.

Tanner Houck’s Competition

In the battle for the Red Sox’s final rotation spot, Houck has plenty of competition. That list includes Garrett Whitlock and Josh Winckowski. However, for Houck, he is focusing on what he can control.

” Show up each and every day, put your best foot forward, and go about your business and honestly make it a hard decision on him is this best thing that we can all do,” Houck told Browne.” Because it means we’re all pitching pretty well. So If that’s the case, I like where this team is at, for sure.”

For Houck, the goal is getting back to where he was in 2022. That year, his four-seamer averaged 95.2 miles per hour. It was down to 93.9 during the 2023 campaign. The change in velocity made him more predictable and easier to hit. That was not a good combination for his first full season in the rotation.

How Houck Can Earn a Rotation Spot

While Houck has had flashes of brilliance in the past, he has struggled to pitch deep into games. That has taxed the Red Sox bullpen and raised questions about his role long-term. If he can throw more strikes, that problem may resolve itself.

As long as the University of Missouri product does that, he is confident that he will find success. That would be a welcome sign for the Red Sox.

” If I get that over-wrapped, then it’s pointing either at the third base dugout or the hitter,” Houck told Browne. ” As long as I keep that in mind, keep my head still going towards home plate, I like my chances of getting over the late.”

Regardless of what the Red Sox decide, Houck’s play will be closely watched over the next few weeks.

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