Boston Red Sox pitcher Tanner Houck records his first career save against the Yankees: “A truly unique experience”
NEW YORK – Red Sox right-hander Tanner Houck’s return to the majors went somewhat unusual on Friday night.
Houck, a starter for most of his professional career, recorded his first big-league save in Boston’s 4-0 win, pitching three scoreless innings replacing Eduardo Rodriguez and Hirokazu Sawamura. Houck allowed just one hit while striking out three batters, largely dominating the Yankees’ lineup in the seventh, eighth and ninth.
Given that the 25-year-old is set to start Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays in Buffalo, his cameo in the reliever box in the Bronx meant something different to him.
“Definitely a once in a lifetime experience,” Houck said. “I started most of my life and this year I had two chances to enter the game in relief. I did a bit of it in 19 and I think it really prepared me well to step into any role. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it all my life: I don’t want to take anything away from this team and whatever they call me to do, that’s what I’m going to do. I will step up and do any role they need from me.
Houck appeared three times – starting twice and exiting the paddock once – for the Red Sox in April before being picked for the WooSox, then was shut down due to flexor muscle pain and a missed about six weeks. He made five starts for Worcester before being called up as the Sox entered the unofficial start of their second half in New York this weekend.
The Red Sox are considering a hybrid starter / reliever role for Houck in order to keep their five main starters fresh early in the second half. Houck sees himself as a pitcher’s version of a utility player like Marwin Gonzalez, Kiké Hernández or Danny Santana.
“Being a pitcher who can move quickly to the bullpen or who can jump to a starter role that quickly, I think that’s a benefit for the team,” he said.
On Friday, with Boston winning 3-0 after six, manager Alex Cora turned to Houck for a stint of several innings. In doing so, he gave a well-rested reliever box even more time after an All-Star break that was extended by Thursday’s postponement.
“Eduardo was great, Sawamura did his job and that’s what we really planned today,” said Cora. “For Tanner to do multiple runs, it worked out perfectly for us.
Houck, who broke into the majors with three stellar starts at the end of last season, now has a 1.78 ERA in his first 30 innings in the big leagues. The Red Sox believe he will be a weapon for them down the stretch.
“My outing today, super happy, obviously, with the way it went,” Houck said. “Every time you win it’s always a good day. Honestly, I just went there and I thought to myself go there and compete. It’s the same as starting a game or stepping into the game. Just keep attacking and do what I can to help this team win.
“It’s definitely a bit of a confidence booster coming back and being successful right away, but it’s about continuing and building on that,” he said.
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