Orioles-Red Sox Opening Day starting pitchers: Gibson vs. Kluber

March 25th, 2023

When two American League East foes battle at Fenway Park on Opening Day, a pair of veteran right-handers will debut for their new teams.

In Corey Kluber, the Red Sox have a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner who is pitching for his fourth team in the past four seasons. While Kluber joins his third AL East team, Kyle Gibson enters this ultra-competitive division for the first time.

The Orioles, built around young stars like Adley Rutschman, went 83-79 last season, marking the first time they finished above .500 since 2016. The Red Sox, who added World Baseball Classic star Masataka Yoshida in addition to veterans Justin Turner and Adam Duvall, are trying to recover from a 78-84 season in ‘22.

RHP Kyle Gibson
Previous Opening Day starts: 2021
2022 season: 10-8, 5.05 ERA in 31 starts

Rather than exercising Jordan Lyles’ $11 million club option for 2023, the Orioles opted to go to the free-agent market to find a new veteran leader for the rotation this past offseason. They were intrigued by the 35-year-old Gibson, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal, the largest contract given out by Mike Elias since he became Baltimore’s general manager in November 2018.

Gibson spent the 2022 season with the Phillies, pitching twice in the postseason during their run to a National League pennant and a World Series appearance. The 10-year MLB veteran’s lone previous Opening Day nod came in ‘21, when he took the mound for the Rangers and allowed five runs in one-third of an inning in a 14-10 loss to the Royals.

“Hopefully, [with] that first time that I’ve done it, you can get some of the extra nerves out,” Gibson said. “But I have a little bit of anxiety and nerves every start. So you figure out how to use that and you figure out how to use that adrenaline in the right way. Hopefully, that first experience will give me a little bit of a learning curve to do a little bit better this time.”

While Gibson has made only four starts at Fenway Park, he’s been terrific in limited action there, posting a 1.57 ERA and a 0.628 WHIP over 28 2/3 innings.

RHP Corey Kluber
Previous Opening Day starts: 2015, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19
2022 season: 10-10, 4.34 ERA in 31 starts

Though Kluber hasn’t been among the elite pitchers in baseball for a few years, he is trying to get back to that level while coming off his first injury-free season in years. Most pitchers benefit from spending time with the Rays, the team Kluber was with last year. The Red Sox hope to reap the benefits of that this season, much like they did with Michael Wacha last year. While pitching Opening Day used to be a yearly thing for Kluber, this is the first time in four years he is getting that nod.

"It's definitely an honor," Kluber said. "There are 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."

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has noted many times during Spring Training how impressed he is by Kluber’s pitching smarts and work ethic. Kluber has had no trouble fitting in with Boston and is enjoying sharing a clubhouse with Chris Sale, who is healthy again and will pitch the second game of the season. In seven career starts at Fenway, Kluber is 4-1 with a 3.53 ERA.