With the Boston Red Sox placing Chaim Bloom at the head of the baseball ops table, could he be bringing the patented opener method to Fenway Park?
Now that the Red Sox have the front office squared away with the official hiring of Chaim Bloom as the Chief Baseball Officer, they can turn the page to 2020. Bloom won’t get much time to acclimate to Boston as he will have to almost immediately jump right into the action of free agency.
Not only is free agency literally beginning in just a few hours, but he also has to start molding this roster for next season. Chaim has plenty of questions that he’s going to need to answer as the new boss but one of the biggest will surround the pitching staff. At times in 2019, we saw the rotation and relief corps both succeed and fail miserably.
Injuries would be the key culprit in the destruction of what was a dominant starting rotation for the Red Sox. Chris Sale and David Price would both need to go day-to-day during points in the season before each would be shut down early in September. Newly signed free agent Nathan Eovaldi would spend most of the season on the IL due to having a procedure to clean out loose fragments from his elbow.
Having those three powerhouses seemingly on the mend for most of 2019 the Red Sox starting rotation had been defanged. So how can Bloom and Alex Cora go about preserving their big three in 2020? The most obvious answer considering the hiring of Bloom would be the introduction of the opener.
This would allow the starters to get their work in but also get off the mound earlier and could also create concrete positions for some of the key relievers. Marcus Walden and Josh Taylor could strive in a system that emplores the opener as it would give them set roles instead of being relievers at unpredictable moments.
It doesn’t sound the sexiest and if you asked Sale or Price I’m sure neither would love the idea, but in the long run, it could keep them healthy. In my eyes, it may be the best solution for getting both southpaws back to the postseason at full strength. The Red Sox believe that Sale can have a regular offseason this winter and preserving his health with fewer innings could further that.
As far as Eovaldi is concerned I think it’s in his best interests to give him less of a workload. However, we saw how poorly that worked when he was given relief appearances after his return. I think if he knows he’s starting then he can carry his usual mindset but will also know that he won’t have to go long into games. That could offer him a bit of a mental break knowing he has to throw fire for only a couple innings.
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We’ve seen several teams incorporate the opener into their gameplans with the most success coming from the Athletics and Bloom’s former team, the Rays. Both clubs made it to the postseason this past year with the Rays getting to the ALDS. These successes could offer the Red Sox a blueprint for how to correctly apply the system to their rotation.
During his introductory press conference this week Chaim was asked if he would try the opener in Boston, and though he didn’t commit, he didn’t deny the thought either. The Red Sox have the tools to utilize the opener method and take it to the next level with the arms they have available to them.
There are still some questions about Boston’s rotation heading into 2020 as Rick Porcello is set to hit free agency, well, tomorrow. If the Red Sox don’t work some sort of deal out with the righty then they’ll need someone to fill that vacancy. Bloom and Cora may not be interested in jumping into the opener deep end so that fifth spot could be the test subject for the gameplan.
Boston also has Eduardo Rodriguez ready to go when called upon and if we learned anything from 2019, it’s that E-Rod is the foundation of this rotation. I can see him getting bumped up the rotation with how the other three struggled this year. I also can’t see him wanting to work only a few short innings considering how important it was to him to hit that 200 IP mark.
If the Red Sox do want to go with the opener then I see them testing it out with that fifth-day spot, especially if they can’t sign someone this winter to fill the vacancy. I can also see them incorporating it on the days where the other three are pitching, maybe not every time, but definitely throughout the year to keep them healthy.
We don’t have any true answers to the questions that plagued the Red Sox throughout the 2019 season. Just months removed from winning the World Series and yet they couldn’t make the postseason. Chaim Bloom will have his hands full searching for solutions, but if he can bring over the opener to Boston, that may give the Red Sox a step in the right direction.