There was some big news in the Red Sox world Wednesday night, as we learned that Jarren Duran was no longer with the Worcester Red Sox, instead making his way down to New York to join the big-league squad to make his debut at the highest level in the Bronx. He won’t be the only top prospect coming up to the team. Joining him will be Tanner Houck, according to a report from Dan Roche.
This one doesn’t come with quite the same punch as the Duran call-up, both because of the players themselves and the surprise factor. Prior to the break, Cora had been hinting at some changes to the rotation picture and pitching staff as a whole, and Houck always seemed to be the guy who would fill in some of those blanks. The righty, of course, will not be making his major-league debut, as he came up last summer and filled in for the rotation earlier this season as well.
However, he had missed some time earlier in the season with a flexor strain injury, having just recently rejoined the Worcester rotation for some rehab. He’s made five starts since coming back last month totalling 18 innings, and he has pitched to a 4.50 ERA with 22 strikeouts and seven walks. In three major-league appearances earlier this season (two starts and one relief appearance) he allowed seven runs (five earned) over 10 ⅓ innings with 12 strikeouts and one walk.
The interesting question to ask here is just how Houck is going to be used. While the stuff is still electric, there are still questions about his game and specifically his third pitch. Reports have indicated he is still not really using that splitter in games down in Worcester, which calls into question his ability to go deep into games. So with that in mind, it does make sense to have him be more of a multi-inning reliever a la Garrett Whitlock for the time being. On the other hand, the Red Sox have 18 games in 18 days right out of the break, and it could make sense to go with a six-man rotation for a few turns to make sure everyone’s fresh for the stretch run. My guess is that we’ll see him more in a support role in the bullpen to enable shorter outings for some of the starters, but it will be interesting to see how exactly he’s utilized.
As for the corresponding move here, and for Duran, neither has been announced just yet. My best guess, and this is just speculation, is that they’ll place Marwin Gonzalez on the injured list and designate Austin Brice for assignment. That creates the two spots on the active roster as well as the 40-man spot for Duran.
But for all of the questions here, the fact remains that two top-10 prospects in the organization will be joining the team in New York. That, on its own, is extremely exciting.