Richards struggled in Wednesday’s outing versus the Blue Jays, going 4.2 innings allowing four runs off four hits, while walking six.

A lot of people have been questioning why Tanner Houck, who has been quite impressive in just five career starts holding a 1.98 ERA, is not on the Red Sox 26-Man major league roster.

Houck is seemingly better than the bottom half of the rotation, Martin Perez, Garrett Richards, and Nick Pivetta. So why isn’t he with the big league club?

Well, if we look at each guy that Houck is supposedly better than, Houck has options left in his career. Meaning Houck can be sent up and down between the majors and minors, with no problem.

Richards, 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA this season after struggling in Wednesday’s loss, would be the player most likely to be sent down out of those pitchers if no rules were involved restricting anything. He was the Red Sox biggest purchase this season average annual salary wise, at a one year, $10M contract.

But anyone with more than five years of experience can not be sent down without consent, and has the option of being sent down or electing free agency. The eight year veteran would most certainly elect to be a free agent, with the Red Sox still having to pay his salary regardless if he stays a free agent for the rest of the season, or gets picked up by another team.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora also believes that Richards will be ‘dominant’ when he gets his slider on point. He currently is relying on his fastball way too much, using it roughly 59% of the time according to Baseball Savant. That’s compared to last year, where he used it just roughly 46% of the time.

“The slider is not where we want it to be or where he wanted to be,” Cora said. “I do believe when the slider starts playing, he’s going to be dominant.”

It’s the same situation with Perez, as he has well over five years of experience in his career. The nine year veteran has a bit of a cheaper contract, but still not worthy to let go of.

If anything, it would be Pivetta to be sent down with Houck not having the five years under his belt. But Pivetta has had a strong start to his campaign with a 3.68 ERA.

The Red Sox chose to go with the more experienced and polished 28-year old Pivetta, rather than the young Houck. Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox organization still evidently believe Houck has some work to do in the minors.

The Red Sox were considering a six-man rotation in spring training, but after flirting with the idea because of the starter depth they have they decided against the idea.

This will leave Tanner Houck in AAA Worcester for at least a little while. With him having the potential of being called up if an injury comes up in the rotation, or called up as the 27th man of a doubleheader, as he was called up on Sunday.

Houck holds an 0-2 record this season, with a 4.35 ERA. He’s appeared in games this season because of extra roster space available on doubleheaders, as well as the very beginning of the season when Eduardo Rodriguez was on the IL. 

The leash for Richards is becoming shorter and shorter, and Richards needs to turn it around somewhat quickly. Because Houck is knocking on the door of a rotation spot.

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