Tanner Houck has made four appearances for Triple-A Worcester while working his way back from a flexor strain and could soon be ready to rejoin the Red Sox. John Bazemore/Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox are considering a six-man rotation to start the second half of the season.

The rotation has been worked hard in the first half, having entered Friday with 462 1/3 innings, eighth-most in MLB. Sox starting pitchers are averaging 88 pitches per start, tied for fifth-most in MLB.

“We’re trying to give everybody a little bit extra rest,” pitching coach Dave Bush said. “We’re coming off 16 or 17 straight right now and we have another 17 or 18 right out of the break. So this is the only spot here in almost a two-month period where we can get guys extra rest, so we’re trying to build in some extra time around the All-Star break.”

Nathan Eovaldi will be pitching in the All-Star Game, so the Sox are making sure they give him a few days to recover from that.

Overall, the Red Sox rotation ranks 20th in MLB with a 4.40 ERA. Shaking up the rotation to add a sixth man doesn’t seem like the worst idea.

“We’ve considered everything,” Bush said. “I don’t know that we’ve come to a conclusion quite yet. But each thing we would do would have a flip side to it. If we go to a six-man, that’s one less guy in the bullpen.”


How do the pitchers feel about an extra day of rest between starts?

“Really, I haven’t asked them,” Bush said. “I think their focus is going out on their turn of pitching. If we tell them it’s going to be an extra day because we’re going to slide a starter in there, then that’s what they’ll do. They don’t have a preference. They don’t really care.”

Bush said the argument against a six-man rotation is that it removes one of the guys from the bullpen, although they could just go with a shorter bench.

“We’ve looked at all those pieces,” he said. “We’ve looked at when we think (Chris) Sale might come back, we’ve looked at what we think Tanner (Houck) might offer us, we’ve looked at obviously we’re well past last year’s workload for all the starters. We’re considering what that means and what we think we can get out of them in the next half of the year. So no final answers right now.”

Houck was scheduled to start for Triple-A Worcester on Friday. After the All-Star break, Boston has a four-game series against the Yankees that starts Thursday. If the Red Sox choose to bring up Houck, he could pitch July 19 in the series-opener against the Blue Jays in Buffalo.

“When he gets built up to the point we’re comfortable, then we’ll see where the rest of our rotation and bullpen is at and decide what move to make,” Bush said.



If the Sox want to keep five starters, they could add Houck to the rotation and send struggling right-hander Garrett Richards to the bullpen.

The 33-year-old was signed to a $10 million deal this year and has a 4.88 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. He has an 8.27 ERA since MLB started cracking down on the use of foreign substances.

Asked if the team has considered moving Richards to the bullpen, Bush said he was encouraged by Richards’ most recent start.

“Yeah, it was a tough couple weeks for him, he had bad starts where he was struggling to make adjustments, but he’s moving in the right direction, he’s throwing the ball much better,” Bush said. “He feels a lot more confident about what he’s doing on the mound. There’s no plans right now to make any changes. He’s taking the ball every five or six days all year and will continue to do so right now.”

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