Tanner Houck competing for Boston Red Sox rotation spot, but needs to develop splitter to stay in majors: ‘He’s going to need a quality third pitch,’ Dave Bush says

Red Sox right-hander Tanner Houck dazzled in his first three major-league outings last September, but he’s far from a sure bet to make the Opening Day rotation. In fact, Houck — barring another starter getting injured or another spring surprise — appears more likely ticketed for Triple-A Worcester to start the season.

The Red Sox have four starters — Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez and Garrett Richards — locked into rotation spots, with Houck, Nick Pivetta, Matt Andriese and Rule 5 pick Garrett Whitlock in the mix for starts as well. It’s unclear if the club will begin the year with a five- or six-man rotation, but either way, it appears Pivetta — who is out of minor-league options — will almost certainly make the team.

That means Houck, who turns 25 in June, might get the chance to fine-tune his pitch mix in the minors. On Saturday, pitching coach Dave Bush said Houck still needs to improve his splitter, which he introduced to his repertoire as a third pitch last year.

“The split was new for him last year so he was relatively inexperienced with it,” Bush said. “He didn’t use it a whole lot in the big leagues. He’s going to have to. If he’s going to be a consistent big-league starter over time, he’s going to need a quality third pitch. He knows that and that’s probably been on the top of the list.

“Continuing to…

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