The Red Sox have another promising prospect making his big league debut this season.
Pitcher Tanner Houck will make his first MLB start when he takes the mound for the Red Sox against the Marlins on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old is ranked as the 10th-best prospect in the Red Sox’ minor league system by SoxProspects.com. and MLB.com. Both sites have the right-hander ranked as the fifth-best pitcher in the Red Sox pipeline behind Bryan Mata, Noah Song, Jay Gromme and Thad Ward.
Here are four things to know about Houck:
Houck has been drafted twice
When the Red Sox selected Houck with the 24th pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, it wasn’t the first time he was selected.
The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Houck in the 12th round of the 2014 MLB Draft after he completed high school in Collinsville, Ill. Houck kept an open mind about signing with the Blue Jays, but according The Columbian Daily Tribune, he elected to go to the University of Missouri after the Blue Jays offered him less money than he wanted.
“Me and my mom, we wanted the dollars. We wanted to know that my future was secure,” Houck told The Columbian Daily Tribune in 2015.
Over his three years at Missouri, Houck had a 17-18 record with a 3.26 ERA in 44 starts.
Houck was selected by the Red Sox after his junior season and was deemed was one of the hardest throwers in the 2017 Draft.
Houck developed a splitter over the last year
Houck comes to the majors with three pitches in his repertoire. He currently throws a fastball, a slider and a splitter.
Since he’s been drafted by the Red Sox, Houck has been throwing fastballs and sliders. Houck’s four-seam fastball is “routinely” in the 95-97 mph range, according to SoxProspects.com. The site also says that Houck’s slider, which is thrown in the 84-86 mph range, has “bat-missing potential.”
The pitch that Houck has worked the most on recently is his splitter. Triple-A Pawtucket pitching coach Paul Abbott told reporters Monday that Houck’s splitter works better for him than his changeup, a pitch that Houck has dropped.
“The split showed he could keep it in the zone a little bit better,” Abbott said. “And then when we dedicated more time to it, the quality of it picked up, too.”
Houck has spent the 2020 season at the team’s training site in Pawtucket. He pitched in 16 games for the Paw Sox last season, making two starts. He had a 3.24 ERA in 25 innings pitched.
Houck played most of the 2019 season with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, going 8-6 in 15 starts with a 4.25 ERA.
Houck has played for the United States national team
Houck has some international experience.
His first time pitching for Team USA came in 2015, when he pitched for the United States collegiate national team.
The highlight of Houck’s international career came that summer when he and two other USA pitchers threw a combined no-hitter against the Cuban National Team. Houck threw four perfect innings in the team’s 2-0 win.
Houck played for Team USA again in the 2019 WBSC Premier 12 tournament. He lost both of his starts and gave up four earned runs over 9.1 innings pitched.
Houck launched a charity for child adoption
After Houck signed his $2.6 million bonus with the Red Sox in 2017, he decided he wanted to start a charity close to his heart.
Houck, who has a little sister who was adopted by his family, created the “Pitch for Adoption” campaign before is 2018 season, pledging to donate $25 for every strikeout he recorded in his first professional year.
Prior to making his MLB debut Tuesday, Houck pledged to donate $100 for every strikeout he records in the big leagues. Houck told Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com that while he fell short of his goal to raise $10,000 in each of his first two seasons, he’s finding ways to raise more money. All of the money raised by Houck goes to St. John Bosco Children’s Center, a facility that provides therapeutic care to young children who have experienced trauma in Southern Illinois.
Houck told Cotillo that his little sister, Reanna, never lived at St. John’s but their mission statement hits close to home. He also told Cotillo that he found out his family adopted Reanna while he was warming up for a game in high school.
“She walks over, hands me a Gatorade and goes, ‘It’s your new sister,’” Houck said of the moment when his mom approached him with a 4-year-old girl in her arms.
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