What is the first name that comes to mind when I ask, who could have the biggest impact in the second half? Is it Chris Sale? JD Martinez? Rafael Devers?
Those are all fine answers, and they all undoubtedly are candidates, but what about a lesser-known name? What about Tanner Houck? The utility swing-man who I think could make the biggest impact to the second half of this Red Sox season.
What is the role of the Utility Swing-Man?
The utility swing-man is a lesser-known role nowadays. It is not used as much, but recently, we have seen it make a comeback. The role is simple: a starter or relief pitcher that can swing into opposite roles. (i.e. starter to relief, or relief to starter.)
We saw it in the 2018 World Series when Chris Sale came in after 2 days rest to close out the series, and when Nathan Eovaldi came in as relief in the 18 inning marathon in Game 3 of the World Series.
They all have an important role, especially for this Red Sox team. If you ask me, it is a vital role to any championship contending team.
How Does Tanner Houck factor into the Role of Utility Swing-Man?
With the return of Sale from Tommy John in the coming weeks, and the struggling of Richards and Perez, this role is even more vital for this Red Sox team. The best fit for this role? Tanner Houck. Houck has shown what he can do as a starter. He is electric, kind of like a mini Chris Sale. As of right now, though, he does not fit into that rotation, so what better way to use him than out of the bullpen but in a more technical way.
The way I see it, Houck will be able to give starters an extra day’s rest by being a spot starter. If a pitcher struggles, he can come in and try to salvage the outing. Or, in the case of Chris Sale, as you try to slowly bring him in with the pitch count, you’ll have Houck as a fallback option to come in after Sale and still have a great chance of winning.
The Schedule Ahead Will Require the Role of a Utility Swing-Man
The schedule isn’t an easy one for the Red Sox in the coming weeks. They have a lot of AL East opponents, and a number of long stretches with no days off. So, this role is going to play a massive part in how this team will survive a grueling stretch like this.
With teams like the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays, it will be pivotal for this team to keep their starters and bullpen rested and ready to go. Tanner Houck is the man that can stretch out these games and save some arms in the process.
The Wrap Up
The role has been kind of dormant in recent years, as you just do not see it used as it had been. But, I believe Tanner Houck can revive the role and make it his own.
Even Houck himself has embraced the role already by saying “Being a pitcher that can transition to the bullpen quickly or transition to a starter role just as quick, I think, is a benefit to the team.” We know this kid could be a stud as a starting pitcher, and until he can finally slide into that role full time, this role is the perfect fit for the youngster who deserves to be in the MLB. The Role of the utility swing-man is the big role Tanner Houck is ready to fill.
-Jeff Hoak (@JeffHoak1 on Twitter)
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