Rookie Houck to debut against hot Marlins


Former first-round pick Tanner Houck’s initial phone call was to his mother.

Houck, a 24-year-old right-hander from Collinsville, Ill., will make his major-league debut on Tuesday night when his Boston Red Sox visit the Miami Marlins to start a three-game series.

The 24th overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft, Houck got the news on Sunday that he would be facing the Marlins, and his initial thought was to call Jennifer, his mom.

“Getting to share that moment with her was truly special,” said Houck, Boston’s 10th-ranked prospect. “She was the one who took me to countless pitching lessons in St. Louis, 45 minutes away. She started crying when I gave her the news.”

Houck said he started dreaming of the majors since he was a young pitcher at age 7.

Last year, Houck made it to Triple-A for the first time, mostly pitching in relief.

A former University of Missouri star, Houck went 17-18 with a 3.26 ERA in his collegiate career. In three years in the minors, he went 15-20 with a 4.08 ERA.

Houck, who will be the 15th different Red Sox starting pitcher this year, has had difficulty retiring lefties in the past. But he has honed a splitter that he feels will get the job done. He also feels he is stretched out enough to throw 90 to 100 pitches.

Tuesday’s matchup between the Red Sox and Marlins is an odd reversal of fortunes. The Red Sox, who won a World Series as recently as 2018 and still managed 84 wins last year, now have the worst record in the American League at 17-31.

Meanwhile, the Marlins — who haven’t made the playoffs since 2003 — finished last season with the worst record in the National League at 57-105. Yet, the Marlins are currently on a three-game win streak and firmly entrenched in playoff position at 24-21, good for second place in the NL East.

Miami has not played well at home this season — just a 7-11 record — but the Marlins just won five out of seven games from the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. That was the longest series in Marlins history, and it allowed Miami to pass the Phillies in the standings.

On Tuesday, the Marlins will turn to 2019 All-Star right-hander Sandy Alcantara (2-1, 3.97 ERA), who has struggled since returning from the COVID-19 list, allowing 15 runs (nine earned) in 16 innings.

Alcantara is a hard thrower who does a lot of damage with his sinker, holding hitters to a .189 batting average on that pitch.

In parts of three years with the Marlins, Alcantara, 25, is 10-18 with a 3.83 ERA. He has never faced Boston, but he is 5-10 with a 4.22 ERA in 20 career starts at Marlins Park, including two complete games/shutouts.

Alcantara figures to face some talented batters, including speedy center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who has a hit in 22 of his past 26 games.

However, Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez — a Miami native and three-time All-Star who led the American League in RBIs in 2018 — is in a massive slump. He is batting .205 — 99 points below last year’s average — and is 1-for-25 in the past six games.

Miami, meanwhile, is led by shortstop Miguel Rojas, who is batting .370 in 27 games.

“This was a huge series for us,” Rojas said after defeating the Phillies. “But we have to keep going.”

–Field Level Media

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