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Tanner Houck likely to shift to bullpen for Red Sox’ playoff push

With a shift to the bullpen, Tanner Houck can serve multiple roles for the Red Sox.Abbie Parr/Getty

There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Or at least the Red Sox hope there is.

With the team in its final stretch of a playoff push, manager Alex Cora announced Friday that it’s likely Tanner Houck will shift to the bullpen, serving in multiple roles.

“This guy can give us nine outs like he did in New York early in the season,” Cora noted before the Sox’ three-game set against the Orioles. “And he can come in and face a pocket of righties and do his thing on multiple days. So it’s good to have them.”

The Sox will go to a four-man rotation to end the year. With offdays following the conclusion of each of the Sox’ next three series — including this one with Baltimore — it gives the rotation a bit more of a breather before six straight games to end the season.

Houck, meanwhile, understands a postseason ticket is at stake and wants to help the team reach its ultimate goal however he can.

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“We know where the end is. It’s all hands on deck,” Houck said. “Let’s all step up, do our role and continue good things. We went out there and did what we had to do in Seattle. Keep that rolling here. We got eight games at home. We’ll have home field advantage with the amazing Fenway fan base. So, like I said, step up in any role that I’m called upon. All the other guys are doing that. So it’s no different for me, and I have that mentality going out there.”

Houck’s future with the Red Sox is certainly bright. He’s established himself as an everyday big leaguer after spending much of the year on the elevator between Triple A Worcester and the big leagues. In 14 games with the Red Sox, including 12 starts, Houck posted a 3.75 ERA, striking out 70 batters in 57⅔ innings of work.

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Nevertheless, there is still work to be done in his development, particularly when it comes to honing his split-finger. Despite the small sample size, Houck has struggled to go a third time through the order this year. His ERA the first time through is 1.67. The second time through it increases to a 4.13 ERA. The third time through it jumps to 27.00. Having a third pitch can help him better navigate through a lineup. That and some other tactics.

“For me, that’s going to be probably my next big learning curve is continuing to go out there and being able to read swings better,” Houck said. “Being able to get in the video room and understand what hitters are doing with their swing and just talking our way through and just learning the game on the mental side. A lot of it is obviously physical, but a lot of it is a mental game.”

The Red Sox have next year to figure that out. Right now, it’s about winning games in a season-ending sprint.

Ryan Brasier spent much of the year on the injured list. First battling a calf strain and then a concussion after being struck in the head with a comebacker during a simulated game. And after just five appearances (4⅓ innings), Brasier was optioned to Triple A Worcester. Brasier had a 4.15 ERA in that span . . . Chris Sale made his first start Friday following his return from the COVID-related injured list. The Red Sox also reinstated Matt Barnes from the COVID-IL. Righthander Michael Feliz was designated for assignment . . . The Red Sox will wear their yellow and blue City Connect jerseys for this series with the O’s . . . Prior to the game, the Sox presented Nate Eovaldi with a plaque as their nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. The award is given annually to a player who best represents the game “through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field” . . . The Sox’ upcoming starters: Nick Pivetta, Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez.

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Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him @byJulianMack.