Red Sox tab Kluber as Opening Day starter

March 15th, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. --  will make his sixth career Opening Day start when the Red Sox host the Orioles on March 30 at Fenway Park.

Manager Alex Cora announced Wednesday morning that the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who signed a one-year deal with Boston this past offseason, will get the ball first when camp breaks and games begin to count in the standings.

"It's definitely an honor," Kluber said after his start in Wednesday's 9-1 win over the Rays. "There's plenty of guys in this clubhouse who could've taken the ball on Opening Day. The way I look at it is regardless if you pitch the first day, the fifth day, it really only matters that first time through the order, and then everything kind of gets messed up anyways. But it is an honor. I've done it before, and I try to make it as normal as possible."

Cora said that he'd known for a while that the veteran right-hander would be his choice to fill the role.

Kluber said he'd never had a manager tell him that early into a campaign he'd take the ball on day one.

"The biggest thing to me was trying to give me as much time as possible to prepare for it," Kluber said. "I think stuff like that, when you have a manager that's looking out for the personal and family situations as well as just the stuff on the field, those are the things that come with it, and I think it's just from his experience of playing, he gets that sort of thing."

The three-time All-Star made 31 starts for the Rays last year, posting a 4.34 ERA with 164 innings pitched -- his highest season total since 2018. He also paced the American League with a 1.2 walks-per-nine ratio that was a career best.

Heading into his Wednesday start against the team he played for last year, Kluber has looked solid this spring, having allowed just two earned runs in 7 2/3 innings, striking out eight.

Kluber turned in his best performance of the spring on Wednesday, working five innings and allowing one run on four hits, striking out six and walking one.

"I felt pretty good out there on the mound today," Kluber said. "I think that each time, obviously, you'd like it to be a winning progression towards Opening Day. A couple times out ago, it wasn't the best, but [I] righted the ship pretty quickly, and I think the last two have been steps in the right direction.

"[I had] a pretty good mix of commanding different pitches -- able to throw most of my pitches for strikes and able to do a job in keeping hitters off balance."

Cora said that he felt giving ace lefty Chris Sale -- who has been limited by injuries to just 11 starts combined the past three seasons -- the day to enjoy things, settle in, and pitch the second game of the regular season was the appropriate decision.

"It's one start," Cora said. "Obviously, it's a special one because it's Opening Day, but after that, I think at one point nobody remembers who was the Opening Day starter. Everybody has to do their part regardless. The five guys are going to start, and then guys are going to join them later on. But I'm excited about [Kluber]. I know it's special for his family, and it should be a fun one."