By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Red Sox fans are apparently looking for something positive to cling to these days, so here you go: with regard to the debut of Tanner Houck, I didn’t hate it.
In fact, I’ll go so far as to say there’s potential there.
In case you didn’t see it – and why would you have? – Houck made his major league debut in last night’s game against the Miami Marlins. The 24-year-old right-hander pitched five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and three walks in the Red Sox’ 2-0 victory. The Red Sox now have just 11 games remaining in a 2020 campaign that will go down as The Season That Never Existed, but this was actually a moment to remember.
Overall, Houck threw 86 pitches (too many) in five innings, including 49 strikes (too few). He got a little erratic near the end. And as much attention as Houck will get for a breaking ball that, at times, looks downright vicious to right-handers, pitches like this one are what should garner your attention:
Pretty nasty, right? Not ridiculously nasty, but pretty good. Good velocity, Good movement. Good location. And at a relatively important stage of the game.
Now, in the interest of honesty, balance and truth, let’s admit a few things. First, the Red Sox have mismanaged Houck’s development since taking him in the first round of the 2017 draft, trying to change him from a hard sinkerballer to a strikeout pitcher and then back again. (But it’s not lot too late.) And last night, the Red Sox chose a young, relatively free-swinging opponent for Houck to make his debut against, which was smart. (Miami has one of the worst offenses in baseball against right-handers and Houck has struggled against left-handed batters.)
At the end of the day, here’s the point: the Red Sox have a clear and obvious need for young pitching. As Alex Speier noted in today’s Boston Globe, the Sox haven’t exactly maximized whatever pitching talent they have had. (Maybe that will change under Chaim Bloom.) But what we know for sure is that Houck has ability and the Red Sox have a need, and, well, there was enough there last night to make you at least take notice.
And given the relative vacuum the Red Sox have operated in this season, well, people taking notice – of something good, no less – is a feat unto itself.