Tanner Houck competes for Boston Red Sox rotational position, but needs to develop a splitter to stay in the majors: “He’s going to need a quality third pitch,” says Dave Bush

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Red Sox right-hander Tanner Houck dazzled in his first three major league outings last September, but he’s far from a safe bet to make the opening day rotation. In fact, Houck – unless another starter gets injured or some other spring surprise – seems more likely to be fined for Triple-A Worcester to start the season.

The Red Sox have four starters – Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez and Garrett Richards – stuck in rotation points, with Houck, Nick Pivetta, Matt Andriese and Rule 5 picking Garrett Whitlock into the mix for the starts as well. It’s unclear whether the club will start the year with a five- or six-man rotation, but either way, it looks like Pivetta – who has run out of options in the minor leagues – will almost certainly be in the lineup. ‘team.

This means that Houck, who turns 25 in June, could have the chance to refine his height mix in the minors. On Saturday, pitching coach Dave Bush said Houck still needs to improve his splitter, which he introduced to his repertoire as a third pitch last year.

“The split was new to him last year, so he was relatively inexperienced,” Bush said. “He hasn’t used it a lot in the big leagues. He’s going to have to. If he’s going to be a consistent starter in the big leagues over time, he’s going to need a quality third pitch. He knows it and it’s probably at the top of the list.

“Keep working on this until he feels comfortable and confident attacking the zone with it and throwing it whenever he needs to,” Bush continued. “Also, generally, the height control. Something he’s been working on throughout the miners is just throwing more strikes, being more consistent in the area, and being able to move forward in the count so he can use his cursor and others. low speed throws to get the guys out.

Houck only threw a handful of splitters in his first three major league outings, highlighting the four-seam fastball and slider he relied on throughout his college and minor careers. . He was effective against the Marlins, Yankees and Braves, allowing just one earned run (0.53 ERA) and striking out 21 batters in 17 innings.

As spring training progresses, Houck will have the chance to participate in matches. The Red Sox have no plans to pitch him in the first six-man rotation in the spring, although he may consider it later in March.

“He’s definitely one of those vying for a spot, and the way he pitched last year was impressive and obviously carries weight,” said Bush. “Big picture, I don’t know at the moment. Certainly we have guys in the camp competing for spots, which is great. It’s a good sign that our team is at the point where we have guys with big league experience competing for big league spots. It’s what you want, when you have depth and you have a better team.

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