Tanner Houck pitched well in his debut for the Boston Red Sox, allowing two hits in five innings against the Miami Marlins. Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Tanner Houck’s tryout to earn a spot in the Boston Red Sox rotation continues Sunday afternoon, when he gets the start at Fenway Park against the Yankees.

“One of those guys you just have to give him the ball and see how it works out,” Red Sox Manager Ron Roenicke said. “That’s why we’re having him pitching right now … to see if he fits in.”

Houck, 24, who began last season in Portland, looked major league-ready on Tuesday, pitching five shutout innings and allowing two hits in a 2-0 win at Miami. It was the best Red Sox starting debut since Eduardo Rodriguez’s 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rangers five years ago.

Now, there are thoughts that Houck could join Rodriguez in the 2021 rotation.

If he does become a regular member of the rotation, Houck, a first-round draft pick (24th overall) in 2017 out of the University of Missouri, would become the first homegrown regular starter since Jon Lester (2006-14) and Clay Buchholz (2007-16) worked their way through Portland to the majors before collecting two World Series rings each with Boston. Rodriguez, though he made his MLB debut with the Red Sox, was in the Orioles system before being acquired for Andrew Miller in 2014.

Roenicke will be watching signs that Houck can handle the rigors of the big leagues, where not only stuff matters, but maturity and resiliency.

“The composure (was there against the Marlins). Command was really good,” Roenicke said. “Just got ahead of people with strikes. He looked calm out there.”


“When a guy has a bad outing sometime, (that’s) really a tale of what he is made of …when he gets hit and how he bounces back.”

Roenicke added, “I hope to not see (a bad outing) this year.”

Sea Dogs fans have seen one; in fact, Houck’s worst minor league start occurred in his Double-A debut on April 6, 2019. Facing the Reading Fightin Phils, Houck allowed seven earned runs on 11 hits and three walks over four innings.

“I felt fine. Just didn’t execute,” Houck said after that game, speaking quickly and quietly. “First start under the belt. Got the jitters out, I guess. Learn from it and come back strong.”

So, what was Houck made of? Over his next three starts, he allowed one run in 16 innings.

Houck moved to Triple-A Pawtucket by mid-July and was used mostly as a reliever. The thinking was that Houck’s fastball-slider combination would be deadly in the bullpen, and he still didn’t have an effective third pitch, especially against lefties (who batted .305 against Houck in Double-A).

This year, at the Red Sox alternative training site, Houck worked on his splitter, using it more than a change-up. The Red Sox kept him stretched out as a starter, and he got the call last week.

“Definitely had the heart pounding a little more than usual,” Houck said of his warm-up. But there would be no jitters to work through.

Houck relied mostly on his fastball (35 pitches) and slider (30), adding 15 splitters and six change-ups. The Marlins had only three left-handed hitters in their lineup, and they went 1 for 6 with a walk against Houck.

“Good mix of pitches,” Roenicke said. “Just being able to put the ball in and out, and going to the off-speed pitches when he needed to.

“If he continues to get out lefties, this guy should be a really good pitcher.”

Tryout No. 2 on Sunday features a more formidable lineup, with the Yankees in town.

Houck’s hopes are, obviously, for a good outing; secondary is his number of strikeouts. Houck has established a “Pitch For Adoption” campaign, pledging $100 for every strikeout, with the donations going to the Caritas Family Solutions agency.

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