Prior to Tuesday’s win over the Rays, the Red Sox got some good news that Eduardo Rodriguez would indeed be ready for his return this weekend, making his 2021 debut in Baltimore on Thursday. Getting the best pitcher on the staff back is obviously a good thing, but the consequence here is that Tanner Houck was to be optioned to make room. That move was officially made here on Wednesday.
The #RedSox optioned RHP Tanner Houck to the Alternate Training Site following last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.— Red Sox (@RedSox) April 7, 2021
Rodriguez won’t be officially activated until tomorrow, so they’re actually playing with a 25-man roster today. Why they’re doing it this way I’m not exactly sure, but it doesn’t really matter as Houck pitched on Tuesday and they weren’t going to use him on back-to-back days anyway.
This is certainly not the most popular decision of all-time, and it’s understandable why that is the case. Houck was electric late last season and was very good in his first start of 2021. He also did pretty well in relief last night. That said, there are some development reasons for him to be down, most notably with his splitter. Probably more relevant is simply that he has options, and particularly for a staff as injury-prone as Boston’s in a season as unprecedented as this, you want to preserve as much depth as possible. So while I certainly would not have complained had he remained in the majors because he is a blast to watch, there’s justifications here.
That said, don’t expect it to be a long-term thing. Whether by injury or under-performance, Houck will be back in Boston sooner than later, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the next time he gets the call — whenever that may be — it’s the last time he has to take that drive from Worcester to Boston.