Tanner Lee Houck
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 210 lb.
- School University of Missouri Columbia
- High School Collinsville (IL) High School
- Debut September 15, 2020
Pitcher Tanner Houck was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the 2017 amateur draft, with the 24th overall pick. He had previously been selected in the 12th round of the 2014 amateur draft, coming out of high school, by the Toronto Blue Jays, but had declined to sign with them in order to attend the University of Missouri. He spent three full seasons as a starter for Missouri.
Houck made his professional debut in 2017 with the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League and made 10 starts for them, but as is usually the case with pitchers coming off a full college season, he was on a strict pitch count, being usually limited to a couple of innings per appearance, and logged only 22 1/3 innings as a result. In 2018, he had a more regular workload with the Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League, making 23 starts and pitching 119 innings in going 7-11, 4.24. In 2019, he pitched in both AA and AAA. He was mainly a starter in the Eastern League with the Portland Sea Dogs, going 8-6, 4.25 in 18 games. He was promoted to the Pawtucket Red Sox in mid July, and after that date 14 of his 16 appearances came out of the bullpen with no record and an ERA of 3.24. He struck out 27 batters in 25 innings in the International League. The parent Red Sox were looking at him as a potential addition to the major league bullpen had the team put together a postseason run, but that did not happen. After the season, he was sent to the Arizona Fall League, where he was again a starter, which remained his likely role in the majors.
He was selected to pitch for Team USA in the 2019 Premier 12 held that November, alongside other top-rank minor league prospects including his teammate in AA and AAA Bobby Dalbec. In his first start, he went 4 1/3 innings against Mexico and allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) while fanning six and walking none; Daniel Tillo relieved. Houck took the loss to Felipe González. His next start against Australia, he allowed a two-run single to Aaron Whitefield in the first. While he allowed only one other hit in five innings, fanning five (and no more walks after two in the 1st), he took the loss as Tim Atherton outpitched him. He tied Josh Tols for the tourney lead in losses; on a positive note, he tied for 5th with 11 K (even with Brandon Dickson, Cody Ponce and Steven Kent).
During the 2020 season, he was assigned to the Red Sox' alternative training site. He was called up to make his major league debut on September 15th, which came as a starter against the Miami Marlins. It went quite well as he allowed just 2 hits - both singles - and 3 walks in 5 innings, while striking out 7, and received credit for a 2-0 win. Houck became only the fourth player in Red Sox history to strike out seven or more batters and not allow any runs in an MLB debut game. In Houck's second start, against the New York Yankees on September 20th, he took a no-hitter into the 6th inning, exiting the game after that inning having held the Yankees to 1 hit and 1 unearned run. Overall with the 2020 Red Sox, Houck appeared in three games (all starts), compiling a 3–0 record with 0.53 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 17 innings pitched. Following the season, Houck was ranked by Baseball America as the Red Sox's number eight prospect.
Houck began the 2021 season on Boston's active roster; he lost one start and made one relief appearance before being optioned to the team's alternate training site on April 7th. He was recalled to start one game of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox on April 18th, taking the loss. Houck was again recalled by the Red Sox on July 16th, earning his first major-league save that evening, pitching the final three innings of a 4–0 win over the Yankees in the Bronx. He was optioned to and recalled from the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox several times during July and August. Overall, he went 1-5, 3.52 in 18 games, including 13 starts, with 1 save. In the minors, he was 0-2, 5.14 in 6 starts for the Worcester Red Sox. He pitched in all three series in which the Red Sox appeared during that postseason, with 1 scoreless inning against the New York Yankees in the Wild Card Game and two outings totaling 6 innings in the Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, earning a win in Game 2 on October 8th. He was hit hard in the ALCS however, as the Houston Astros touched him for 4 runs in 3 1/3 innings.
In 2022, he made 32 appearances with the Red Sox, including 4 starts, logging 60 innings with a record of 5-4, 3.15 with 8 saves. That made him one of Boston's top pitchers that year. In 2023, he was back as a full-time starter, and after 13 outings was at 3-6, 5.05 when on June 16th he was hit flush in the face by a line drive hit through the box by Kyle Higashioka in the 5th inning of a start against the Yankees. The ball struck him below the right eye and he had to leave the game immediately. he was placed on the injured list as doctors surgically inserted a metal plate to help the bones heal back into place.