Tanner Houck's eye-opening offseason might pave the way to Red Sox rotation


It was exactly what Tanner Houck was hoping for after dipping his toes in the major league waters at the tail-end of the 2020 season.

Throughout December and January, the Red Sox rookie pitcher immersed himself into workouts with the likes of Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Noah Syndergaard at Cressey Sports Performance-Florida.

"Honestly, for me I would say 100 percent that being around those guys, being around such elite competition, I wouldn’t say there are a lot of good stories because a lot of it is just, ‘Hey, we’re here to get our stuff done, our work done and push our bodies and truly push ourselves to better ourselves for the upcoming season.’ A lot of it for me is putting myself around bigger fish," Houck said while appearing on The Live BP Baseball Show. "You never want to be the biggest fish in the pond, which is what I think the saying is. Just continuing to be around elite competition like that and also coming here and being around Sale, Eovaldi, Eddie is another one. Just being around those guys is so much easier to pick up stuff and learn and what they’ve done and how they have had success. Out of that group that we mentioned there is a ton of elite talent that everyone can recognize no matter who you’re a fan of."

(He did, however, draw the line when it came to a bench-press competition with Syndergaard. "No. Never did take place. I know where my strengths lie and that wouldn't be one of them.")

The adventure seemed to be just what the doctor ordered for Houck, who is vying for a spot in the Red Sox' rotation after his eye-opening three starts (1 earned run in 17 innings).

It not only helped the 24-year-old's skill-set, but reinforced a state of mind he has seemingly already carried over to the early days of Red Sox' spring training.

"It does actually start with a great offseason," Houck said. "Coming back ready and pushing yourself beyond comfort in the offseason so that whenever you come to the season that (discomfort) is comfortable to you. Starting with a good base there and just starting with also a good base off the field. You can come into the field every day and work out and run and throw and do everything you can on the field. But off the field, if you’re not doing the proper stuff, if you’re not getting your rest, you’re not getting nutrition, you’re just staying up late doing whatever, that also hurts you. That adds up over a long season. So a lot of it is looking at the small details and just preparing. A lot of it is also the mental side. This game is a lot of failure. It’s very small, very fine details that can change one little outcome. I mean, you’re talking about inches. Inches matter of a runner being safe versus being out. A guy catching at the end of the bat versus squaring one out. Inside versus outside. Whatever it is. A lot of it is just refining and just trying to make those mistakes as little and as few as possible. A lot of it is you have to focus on the details on a day to day basis."

And now he is getting a chance to see the where the lessons learned leads him.

Those days of dabbling in life as a reliever seem a distant memory, with Houck seemingly putting himself to compete with Nick Pivetta for the final spot in the Red Sox' five-man rotation.

"For me, I would love to start," he said. "That is what I’ve done my entire life. I had that little stint in ’19 out of the bullpen. It was a great experience. I definitely feel comfortable doing it, but my ultimate goal is to be a starter. I want that ball every fifth day and to go out there and compete for six, seven innings. So that’s what I’ve always done and that’s what I’m looking to do."

Featured Image Photo Credit: Courtesy Boston Red Sox/Billie Weiss