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Sox take Houck with 24th pick in Draft

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- The Red Sox realize that Tanner Houck, the hard thrower they selected at No. 24 in the first round of this year's Draft on Monday night, could probably have a quick path to Fenway Park as a reliever.

The Sox, however, envision the right-hander from the University of Missouri as a starting pitcher, and they plan on displaying the patience it will take to one day make him a rotation member at Fenway Park.

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BOSTON -- The Red Sox realize that Tanner Houck, the hard thrower they selected at No. 24 in the first round of this year's Draft on Monday night, could probably have a quick path to Fenway Park as a reliever.

The Sox, however, envision the right-hander from the University of Missouri as a starting pitcher, and they plan on displaying the patience it will take to one day make him a rotation member at Fenway Park.

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"We're very excited," said Red Sox vice president of amateur scouting Mike Rikard. "Tanner is a pitcher we have scouted and got to know for the past few years pitching not only at Missouri, but also in the summers, and we were very excited. We think he has a chance to be a very good starting pitcher for the Red Sox."

Houck has motivational tattoo

:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::

The 20-year-old Houck is known for his arm speed and sink on his fastball. Houck has hit 98 mph on the radar gun, but he usually throws from 92-96 mph. He is one of the hardest throwers in this year's Draft.

"Super excited," Houck said. "Team with great history. Obviously they're one of the top teams in the entire league right now. They've been great through numerous years. I'm honored to be a Boston Red Sox and super excited to get started."

If Houck wants to wind up as a starter, he needs to improve the command of his secondary offerings.

"I definitely feel like they continued to get better," Houck said. "There's always something that you can practice and get better with. I need to work on tightening up the slider, really developing the changeup, really making sure it's kind of a next-level swing-and-miss pitch for me. Just continue to develop that, maybe add in another pitch as I pitch a few years in the league and have some of the Red Sox coaching."

What makes the Red Sox feel so confident he can start?

Video: Draft 2017: Rikard on Houck's upside with Red Sox

"For starters, he's very athletic," Rikard said. "He's got good deception in his delivery. He's got a really good, hard, sinking fastball that he can run up to 97 mph. He throws strikes. He doesn't walk guys. He really competes on the mound. He just does a lot of the things we look for in a college pitcher."

For Missouri this season, the Collinsville, Ill., native went 4-7 with a 3.33 ERA, walking 24 and striking out 95 in 94 2/3 innings.

"Great kid and competitor," said Missouri pitching coach Patrick Hallmark. "All the experts measured and critiqued his stuff all year, and not always accurately or insightfully. Yet he just showed up everyday energized and with a sense of pleasure in his work. His durability and demeanor both on the field and off will be an asset in Boston. I'm super proud of Tanner and look forward to watching him work his way to Boston."

It was a step down from his previous two seasons, and that is probably what allowed him to still be available when the Red Sox were on the clock.

Video: Draft 2017: Reynolds, O'Dowd on Houck's delivery

"He's performed very well in one of the better conferences," said Rikard. "We are also really excited, too, because we think there is still a lot of growth that he can make as far as developing some other pitches and just continuing to polish his stuff up before he gets to the big leagues."

The Red Sox have developed their share of position players in recent Drafts, but they need some impact arms in the system. Houck could wind up helping to fill that need.

At 6-foot-5 and 218 pounds, Houck throws with a three-quarters arm slot which should make him tough on right-handers.

With their second-round selection (No. 63 overall), the Red Sox added high school outfielder Cole Brannen from The Westfield School, Perry, Ga.

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 12 p.m. ET.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

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