Opening Day FAQ: Orioles vs. Red Sox
BOSTON -- At what should be a chilly Fenway Park on Thursday with temperatures expected to stay in the 40s, the Orioles and Red Sox -- two longtime foes in the American League East -- will start their respective quests of trying to prove they can be in the mix in one of baseball’s most competitive divisions.
The O's, backed by a nucleus of exciting young players led by catcher Adley Rutschman, were a big surprise last season, finishing at 83-79, their first season above .500 since 2016. Baltimore aims to take it a step further in '23, trying to improve on a fourth-place finish.
Things weren’t nearly as fun in Boston last season, as an injury-ravaged Red Sox team went 78-84 and finished in last place for the second time in the past three years. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has added a host of newcomers -- including Masataka Yoshida, Justin Turner, Adam Duvall, Corey Kluber, Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin -- in hopes of this year being more successful. The Red Sox have said several times how important it is for them to get off to a fast start this season.
As always on Opening Day, the atmosphere will be electric at Fenway Park.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
First pitch is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. ET on Thursday, and the game will be available free on MLB.TV. It will be televised on NESN and on MASN2.
What are the lineups?
Orioles: With vast positional flexibility and no set player at designated hitter, manager Brandon Hyde is likely to write out a lot of lineup combinations this season. For Opening Day, he went with top prospect Gunnar Henderson at DH. The O's should often feature Cedric Mullins at the top, with Rutschman, Ryan Mountcastle and Anthony Santander in the heart of the order.
1. Cedric Mullins, CF
2. Adley Rutschman, C
3. Anthony Santander, LF
4. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B
5. Gunnar Henderson, DH
6. Ramón Urías, 3B
7. Austin Hays, RF
8. Adam Frazier, 2B
9. Jorge Mateo, SS
Red Sox: Boston is quietly excited about its lineup. Manager Alex Cora believes this combination of hitters will get back to grinding out at-bats and mainly just swinging at strikes. The Sox have been trying to fill the leadoff spot since Mookie Betts was traded. Alex Verdugo will get a shot against righties. Rafael Devers is one of the most feared hitters in the game and the Red Sox are hoping a rejuvenated Turner can give him the protection he needs. Yoshida, fresh off 13 RBIs in the World Baseball Classic, adds intrigue.
1. Alex Verdugo, RF
2. Rafael Devers, 3B
3. Justin Turner, DH
4. Masataka Yoshida, LF
5. Adam Duvall, CF
6. Triston Casas, 1B
7. Christian Arroyo, 2B
8. Reese McGuire, C
9. Kiké Hernández, SS
Who are the starting pitchers?
Orioles: Kyle Gibson, the 35-year-old that signed a one-year, $10 million deal with Baltimore over the offseason, will make his second career Opening Day start. He’s aiming for better results this time, as he allowed five runs in one-third of an inning in Texas’ 2021 opener in Kansas City. He’s pitched well in four career starts at Fenway Park, recording a 1.57 ERA and a 0.63 WHIP. The O’s are hopeful Gibson can be a reliable veteran presence at the top of their rotation after they opted not to bring back righty Jordan Lyles.
Red Sox: Corey Kluber, the veteran right-hander and two-time Cy Young Award winner, isn’t the elite pitcher he once was, but Kluber has done a nice job reinventing himself by going with a more craftsman approach. Last season, Kluber threw his cutter 34.2 percent of the time and his curve 27.3 percent. He also used his sinker a lot and threw just 36 four-seam fastballs all season. Kluber isn’t going to light up a radar gun. He typically tops out in the tops out at 88-89-mph at this point of his career. This will be Kluber’s Boston debut, but he pitched well as a visitor at Fenway, going 4-1 with a 3.53 ERA in seven starts.
How might the bullpens line up after the starter?
Orioles: Félix Bautista enters the 2023 season as Baltimore’s closer, a role he assumed after Jorge López was traded to Minnesota at last year’s Trade Deadline. Bautista had an impressive rookie season, recording a 2.19 ERA, 15 saves and 13 holds. Top setup relievers Bryan Baker and Cionel Pérez should be among those used to bridge the gap from Gibson to Bautista.
Red Sox: They have a new closer in Jansen, and that's not a new name to baseball fans. Jansen has 391 career saves, which ranks eighth all-time. The setup crew will be led by another former Dodger in righty Chris Martin, a strike-throwing machine. John Schreiber broke out to become a force last year. The hope is that it wasn’t a one-year thing. Ryan Brasier, the longest-tenured member of the bullpen, is out to prove he can still pitch after an erratic 2022 season. Richard Bleier opens the season as Boston’s lead lefty with Joely Rodriguez on the injured list.
Any injuries of note?
Orioles: The bullpen will be shorthanded as right-hander Dillon Tate (right flexor forearm strain) is opening the season on the 15-day injured list and likely won’t return until May. Plus, righty Mychal Givens’ Opening Day status is in question due to left knee soreness. Backup catcher James McCann has been slowed by left oblique soreness in recent days and could be in jeopardy of starting the year on the IL. Left-hander John Means, the Orioles’ Opening Day starter in 2021 and ‘22, will begin on the 60-day IL while continuing to recover from Tommy John surgery. He isn’t expected to return until July, at the earliest.
Red Sox: Shortstop/second baseman Trevor Story will miss at least half the season as he recovers from an internal bracing procedure on his right elbow. Adalberto Mondesi, one of the players brought into fill Story’s void, is still recovering from a torn left ACL he sustained last season, and won’t be back until at least May. Three starting pitchers -- Garrett Whitlock, Brayan Bello and James Paxton -- are all beginning the season on the injured list. Whitlock should be back by around April 11. Bello is about a week behind that schedule. Paxton won’t return before May. Rodriguez’s timetable is unclear as he recovers from a Grade 2 strain of his right oblique.
Who’s hot and who’s not?
Orioles: Rutschman had a big spring, slashing .310/.420/.595 through 17 games after Monday's result. His four home runs are tied for the team lead. ... Hays also went deep four times and is batting .333 through 14 games. ... Mountcastle has also swung a hot bat, going 19-for-48 (.396) in 17 games. ... Gibson allowed only two runs in 14 innings over his first four starts, but he gave up six runs in 4 2/3 frames vs. the Yankees in his final Grapefruit League start Friday.
Red Sox: AL Rookie of the Year candidate Triston Casas has had a strong spring, hitting .333 with four homers and 10 RBIs. … Duvall, who had a quiet start to camp, belted four homers in a span of 19 at-bats between March 12-21. ... Turner, who missed two weeks after getting hit in the face by a pitch, got back in the groove as soon as he resumed action. Turner walloped a homer into the visitors' bullpen in right-center on Friday. … Relievers Brasier and Schreiber were both inconsistent in Spring Training. The Sox are banking on their performances improving once the games start for real.
Anything else fans might want to know?
• This will be the third time in four years the Orioles and Red Sox open the season at Fenway Park. Boston won, 13-2, in 2020, while Baltimore notched a 3-0 victory in ‘21.
• The O’s rank third in all-time Opening Day winning percentage. Over the franchise’s long history (dating back to 1901), the club is 71-49-1 in openers. This will be the fifth consecutive year Baltimore begins the season on the road. It has lost three of its past four Opening Day matchups after winning its opener every year from 2011-18.
• Cora, in his fifth season as Boston’s manager, is looking for his first win on Opening Day.
• Bloom’s offseason acquisitions own a combined nine All-Star selections, five World Series titles, two Cy Young Awards and one Gold Glove.