Boston Red Sox: ‘Opener’ talk shows Bloom will be hands-on

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 11: Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom looks on as he introduces Ron Roenicke of the Boston Red Sox as the Boston Red Sox Interim Manager during a press conference on February 11, 2020 at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 11: Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom looks on as he introduces Ron Roenicke of the Boston Red Sox as the Boston Red Sox Interim Manager during a press conference on February 11, 2020 at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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The Boston Red Sox are talking about using an ‘opener’ this season, and chief executive Chaim Bloom is directing the discussion.

Any Boston Red Sox fans wondering whether Chaim Bloom will be a hands-on chief executive officer got formal notice Sunday: That’s a yes.

Confirmation of Bloom’s intent to take a hands-on role in the team’s development came when he announced that he had conducted a sit-down with interim manager Ron Roenicke on the ways and means of using an “opener” – or two – in the team’s rotation.

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Bloom, of course, came to Boston from a stint in the front office of the Tampa Bays Rays, where GM Erik Neander and field manager Kevin Cash invented the “opener” concept two seasons ago.

Roenicke spoke about the meeting Sunday, downplaying the obvious issue of the field taking boss taking directions on the conduct of play from the front office. Matters of that sort have become sensitive on some teams and were believed to be one reason why the Cubs and Joe Maddon parted ways at the end of 2019.

“He didn’t want to make a big deal out of it,” Roenicke told MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “He didn’t want to be like a professor and he’s teaching us all.”

Roenicke said the topic has been a matter of ongoing discussion. “I’ve talked to him quite a bit about this and I still learned things today that I needed to know,” he said.”

Following the recent trade of David Price, the Boston Red Sox anticipate a rotation consisting of Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez.

Ryan Weber, who spent much of last season in the bullpen, is a fifth option. But Weber made only three starts last year and Sale’s spring progress has been slowed by flu. It’s not clear that he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season.

The question marks surrounding Weber and Sale are what have prompted discussion about an opener.

As is generally defined in baseball today, an “opener” is a pitcher tasked with facing the top of the opponent’s order for one or two innings at the start of a game, retiring them and then turning over the pitching duties to what would classically be described as a “long man.”

When they made the heaviest use of an “opener” in 2018, the Rays used Ryan Stanek most frequently on that capacity. Stanek made 29 starts (along with 30 relief appearances) but pitched just 66 innings.

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He was often replaced by Ryan Yarbrough, the most frequently used long man that year. Yarbrough made only six starts but 32 relief appearances, running up 147 innings. That was second high on the team behind only Blake Snell’s 180 innings in 31 appearances, all of them starts.

Two things remain unclear about the “opener” notion in Boston. Which pitchers would be affected by it and how long would it be used for? Specifically, is this something the Sox would only consider using until Sale returns? Or are they willing to scrap the notion of using Weber in a classic starter’s role and employ an “opener” indefinitely?

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Perhaps Chaim Bloom will clarify those questions.