SAN DIEGO — The Red Sox told Tanner Houck to build up as a starter during the offseason, with the team unsure how they would utilize him in 2023. Houck began last season in the rotation but ultimately moved to the back end of the bullpen, often as the team’s closer.
The acquisition of closer Kenley Jansen could push Houck toward the rotation next year.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who would not comment on the Jansen signing at the Winter Meetings Wednesday because it was not yet official, spoke generally, hinting at the strong possibility of Houck starting.
“There’s a reason that we wanted him to prepare as a starter,” Bloom said. “It’s not like this guy, when he went out to the bullpen, went out there because he [it didn’t work] in the rotation.
“He was successful as a starter. So, if he’s going to be in that [role], the same goes for him as it does for some of the other young starters, if you want to bring a young starting pitcher along you need to be able to do it the right way and protect them and take care of them.”
Houck made just four starts, registering a 4.32 ERA compared to a 2.70 ERA as a reliever. He was shut down toward the end of the year because of back issues and ultimately underwent minor surgery.
Rule 5 draft
The Red Sox lost three righthanded pitchers in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft Wednesday. Thad Ward went to the Nationals while Noah Song and Andrew Politi were selected by the Phillies and Orioles, respectively.
The Ward and Politi selections did not come as a surprise. Politi, who was a call-up candidate at the end of last season, pitched to the tune of a 2.34 ERA between Double A Portland and Triple A Worcester, striking out 83 batters in 69 ⅓ innings pitched.
Some in the industry suggested that it was a shock that the Red Sox left Ward unprotected. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2021, Ward compiled a 2.28 in 51 ⅓ innings pitched in 2022.
Bloom called losing Ward “a bummer.”
“He was probably our toughest decision as we set rosters and knowing what our plans were for this offseason,” Bloom said. “[But] sometimes if you add a player, you may end up either losing him or losing another player because you added that player. There were no easy choices with that.”
It’s been three years since Song has pitched competitively as he fulfills his commitment to the Navy. Song’s military status had him on the restricted list and that remains the case as his petition to be reinstated is still unresolved.
Red Sox minor league infielder Cam Cannon, a second round pick in 2019 by the Sox, was selected by the Phillies in the minor league phase of the draft.
The Sox had four players taken, perhaps pointing to the level of depth in their system.
“I would rather not lose players,” Bloom said. “But I do think it’s a testament to where our system is going. Obviously you want to be able to make moves to get in front of these situations and you aren’t gonna be able to do it with everybody.”
The Red Sox selected two players in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft: righthander Ryan Miller from the Yankees, and lefthander Joe Jacques from the Pirates.
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.