Red Sox

McAdam: Red Sox set to give Tanner Houck a shot at reversing organization’s long developmental drought

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(Barry Chin/The Boston Globe for Getty Images)

The general managers -- or similarly-titled executives -- change. The managers change. The pitching coaches, too.

But one thing remains the same with the Red Sox: Not since Clay Buchholz have they drafted/signed and developed a homegrown starting pitcher of merit.

Two years ago, Jalen Beeks got one start before later that summer being traded for Nathan Eovaldi.

Already this season, Kyle Hart got a chance to break through. It did not go well. In three starts and one relief appearance, Hart combined to pitch 11 innings while allowing 24 hits and posting an ERA of 15.55 and a WHIP of 3.091.

Next?

Next, actually, is Tanner Houck, who will make his major league debut Tuesday in Miami when the Red Sox begin a series with the Marlins.

The organization's first-round pick in the 2017 draft, Houck has enjoyed modest success in the minors. He doesn't crack anyone's Top 100 prospects list. Even within the Red Sox' developmental system, he barely makes the Top 10 as designated by MLB.com's MLBPipeline.

As recently as late last summer, the Red Sox began working him out of the bullpen to see if he might be able to contribute to the big league club in relief over the final month. Ultimately, he didn't get promoted when rosters expanded last September.

Over the course of his pro career, the Sox have tinkered with both his pitch mix and his delivery, having him shift in 2018 from a sinker-slider repertoire to one that featured more four-seam fastballs and curve, while also trying to have him change his arm slot a bit.

Now, however, Houck is back to a low three-quarters delivery, and again relies heavily on his two-seamer and a sweeping slider. Importantly, he's ditched his changeup in favor of a splitter to attack lefties, who have sometimes hit him hard in the minors.

Houck has been with the team as part of its traveling taxi squad since the road trip began last Tuesday in Philadelphia and only Sunday morning, when he was approached on the field at Tropicana Field, was he informed by manager Ron Roenicke that he would be added to the major league roster Tuesday and given the ball.

"Definitely excited,'' he said. "It's been a dream of mine ever since I've been playing baseball. Finally getting the call to make my debut and get that start, I'm truly honored and very excited as well. It's something I've worked my whole life for, so I guess it's a dream come true.

"In the moment, I was definitely a little shocked. I just had to pause for a moment and realize what just happened.''