Houck blunt in assessment of rough outing

March 23rd, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After enduring a Wednesday night pounding in an 11-0 loss to the Twins at JetBlue Park that spiked his Grapefruit League ERA to 8.31, wasn’t in a sugar-coating kind of mood.

“I sucked,” said Houck, after allowing eight runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings with no walks and six strikeouts. “That’s about as blatant as I can put it. But the great thing about this game is you show up tomorrow, you get back to the grindstone, you just keep working. Hold yourself accountable and go back out there in five days and do it again.”

The next time Houck goes out there will be on March 27 against the Braves in Boston's penultimate game of Spring Training. It will serve as the final tuneup for the righty before he pitches the third game of the season, at Fenway Park against the Orioles. He knows there is much work to be done between now and that start on April 2.

“Competitively, obviously, I want to be better,” Houck said. “I know I can be better. I know I’m a better pitcher than what I’ve shown. That’s where I hold myself accountable and I’m frustrated with myself. Because I know I’m better and I hold myself to a higher standard than that.”

Houck mentioned that his delivery has been out of sync and he’s been working on a new pitch -- the cutter -- while trying to increase the use of his splitter.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora suggested that the tinkering portion of Spring Training is over for Houck, and now it’s time for him to sharpen his two best tools -- his wipeout slider and mid-90s fastball.

“We know he’s working on a few things as far as pitch mix and the cutter and all that stuff,” said Cora. “But at the end of the day, we have to narrow it down to throw strikes with his stuff. It’s cool to get creative and try to get better, but don’t forget your strength. We’ll talk to him.”

Cora emphasized that he hasn’t lost confidence in the 26-year-old righty. 

“No, no, no, I’m not concerned,” said Cora. “I think he’ll be OK. There’s a lot of stuff going on right now -- the cutter and the split and this and that. And I think in the end, don’t forget who you are. You’re still a pretty good pitcher, regardless if you’re in the bullpen or the rotation.”

Though Houck will start the season in the rotation, he could wind up in the bullpen by mid-April with both and expected to have just short stints on the injured list.

Houck has always been a team-first pitcher, happy to pitch in whatever role Cora asks him to.

But the role isn’t the issue right now. Instead, Houck knows he needs to get his pitches and mechanics in order. 

“Delivery-wise, I’ve felt a little off all of Spring Training,” said Houck. “But sometimes your body needs a shock to the system. So we'll come back tomorrow and just kind of give the body a shock and really get in the video room, continuing to hound on the early mound work.”