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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Tanner Houck will start the third game of the regular season, Red Sox Manager Alex Cora announced Wednesday after the Twins crushed the righty at JetBlue Park.

Houck gave up eight runs on 10 hits, including three homers, in 4 2/3 innings. He didn’t walk anyone, but he hit three batters. Boston lost 11-0.

“I sucked,” Houck said. “That’s about as blatant as I can put it. But the good thing about this game is you show up tomorrow, you get back to the grindstone, you just keep working. Hold yourself accountable.”

Houck has allowed 16 runs in 17 1/3 innings (8.31 ERA) over five starts this spring. He has given up 22 hits, including six homers, and 10 walks while striking out 21.

“Competitively, obviously I want to be better,” Houck said. “I know I want to be better. I know I can be better. I know I can be a better pitcher than I’ve shown. And 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. So don’t put too much stock into it because it’s spring training. Come back five days from now. We’ve got Opening Day in (eight) days from now. That’s when stuff really starts to matter.”


Houck said pitch location has been an issue.

“I’m leaving my two-seam up; it’s flattening out because of that,” Houck said. “Just missing some spots here and there. Also got to give the hitters credit sometimes. They put some pretty good swings on some pitches as well. It’s a combination of both. And just gotta be better.”

He has been working on a new pitch (a cutter) and he has felt “a little off” mechanically all spring.

Cora said Houck was better mechanically toward the end of his start Wednesday. The righty also began using his four-seamer more.

“We know he’s working on a few things as far as pitch mix and the cutter and all that stuff,” Cora said. “But I think at the end of the day, we have to kind of 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.”

Houck’s strength is his two-seamer and slider combination.


“Keep working on the mechanics, get him in line toward the plate,” Cora said. “When we do that, he’s a good one.”

Houck added, “I feel good with everything. The body feels great. If you look at the silver lining of anything, I still have my health. And that’s all I can ask for. … Also, I got up to 90 pitches tonight. So that’s another milestone that you kind of want to be able to check the box, especially with the season 10 days out.”

WYATT MILLS, a right-handed reliever who the Red Sox acquired in a trade with the Royals during the offseason, has been shut down because of a flexor issue.

“He’s banged up,” Cora said. “There’s a good chance he’s going to start the season on the IL.”

Mills, who had a good chance of making the Opening Day roster before getting injured, hasn’t pitched in a Grapefruit League game since March 13, when he allowed four runs on four hits and one walk in one inning vs. the Blue Jays. He also hit two batters. He had pitched well before that, allowing no earned runs, three hits and four walks while striking out eight in five innings (four outings).

Boston acquired Mills from Kansas City on Dec. 16 for minor league pitcher Jacob Wallace.


The Red Sox traded for the sidearmer hopeful that he will be able to follow in John Schreiber’s footsteps and have a breakout season in 2023. He has the same arm angle and repertoire (four-seam fastball, slider and sinker) as Schreiber.

A Red Sox official said the team thinks Mills has more stuff than Schreiber did when Schreiber was claimed off waivers in February 2021.

“The stuff, the uniqueness, the slot is different,” Cora said. “And actually, the four-seamer is good. When he used it a lot in games, he got some swings-and-misses on top of the zone. A little bit inconsistent control-wise, command-wise. But you can see it, like that uniqueness of throwing from there. And the action of his pitches is very good.”

AS EXPECTED, Joely Rodriguez will start the 2023 season on the IL because he has a grade two strain of his right oblique. Boston signed the lefty in the offseason.

“A lot better than we thought. It’s still a grade 2,” Cora said. “So he’s gonna start the season on the IL.”

Cora thinks Rodriguez will be able to avoid the 60-day IL.

“As of right now, I don’t believe it’s a 60-day,” Cora said.

THURSDAY’S GAME: Bobby Dalbec, Ronaldo Hernandez and Jorge Alfaro each hit a two-run homer, leading the Red Sox to a 7-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Florida.

Josh Winckowski got the win, allowing five hits and two runs in four innings. He struck out two and walked none.

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