Tanner Houck, who went 8-6 in 17 starts for the Portland Sea Dogs last season, will make his major league debut for the Red Sox on Tuesday night. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

With three weeks left in the season, the Red Sox will give at least one of their pitching prospects a chance.

Tanner Houck, the 24-year-old right-hander the Sox selected 24th overall out of the University of Missouri in 2017, will make his MLB debut and start against the Marlins on Tuesday.

The Sox have been hesitant to add any of their top prospects to the big leagues, even while they have an MLB-leading 31 losses this year and their pitching staff has an MLB-worst 6.22 ERA.

First baseman Bobby Dalbec was the lone prospect promoted, but that shouldn’t have been a tough decision given he was already on the 40-man roster and they traded regular first baseman Mitch Moreland to the Padres.

Houck is not on the 40-man, but he’ll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter anyways and will need to be added by then or he’ll almost certainly be plucked by another team.

Still, adding Houck to the roster presents at least some reason to tune into a Red Sox team that’s been difficult to watch for most of this season.

“Definitely excited,” Houck said before the Sox’ game on Sunday. “It’s been a dream of mine since I started playing baseball. Finally getting that call to make my debut and get that start, I’m really honored.”

Houck has been with the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket for most of this season, but was added to the taxi squad for the team’s trip to Florida this weekend.

His first phone call was to his mother, who started crying.

“Getting to share that moment with her was truly special,” he said. “She’s been there from the beginning. She was the one that, countless nights, driving over to St. Louis about 45 minutes just to take me to a pitching lesson because I was 7 years old saying I want to pitch in the majors one day. So she definitely started crying and it was just a surreal moment getting to do that with her.”

Houck isn’t the kind of prospect who is expected to dominate. It’s been a long journey for him in the minors, where he’s several times alternated his pitch mix, as the Sox went back and forth deciding whether or not he’d be better off focusing on a four-seam or a two-seam fastball. He throws in the low-to-mid 90s without a lot of break. His sharp slider is probably his best pitch.

“I’ve definitely added a new weapon with the splitter,” Houck said. “I banged my changeup about two months ago. I was kind of on the fence with both of them for a while there throwing the changeup and the split. One day they were like, ‘Here are the numbers, and your split plays way better to righties and lefties.'”

Houck pitched for the Sox in Fort Myers this spring and allowed six runs in 6 1/3 innings, walking six and striking out seven.

Between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last year, Houck had a 4.01 ERA with 107 strikeouts and 46 walks in 107 2/3 innings.

Given the Sox have struggled to get any length in their rotation, they’re excited to see what they have in Houck, who has been throwing 90 pitches down in Pawtucket.

“I take pride in that, honestly,” he said. “I take pride in being able to get through six, seven innings every time, 100 times, and just go out there and have a bulldog mentality.”


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