A pair of veteran pitchers will debut for new teams Thursday when the Boston Red Sox host the Baltimore Orioles in an Opening Day matchup.
Two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber is set for his first home start at Fenway Park, having joined the Red Sox in the offseason -- as his fifth team in as many seasons and third straight within the American League East alone.
Kluber, 36, was 10-10 with a 4.34 ERA in 31 starts for Tampa Bay last season. The right-hander sported a 3.53 ERA and won four of his seven starts as a Fenway visitor and is 6-4 in 16 career starts against Baltimore.
"Plenty of guys in this clubhouse could've taken the ball on Opening Day," Kluber said. "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. ... I've done it (five times) before, and I try to make it as normal as possible."
Kluber will oppose 35-year-old Baltimore righty Kyle Gibson, who went 10-8 with a 5.05 ERA in 31 starts in helping Philadelphia to the National League pennant in 2022.
In addition to Kluber and returning a healthy Chris Sale, Boston added several key pieces in the likes of World Baseball Classic champion Masataka Yoshida, veteran infielder Justin Turner, outfielder Adam Duvall and reliever Kenley Jansen.
After finishing 2022 in the division cellar at 78-84, the Red Sox currently have 10 players on the 40-man roster who were not previously in the organization.
Despite losing star shortstop Xander Bogaerts to San Diego, the roster gained 6.1 WAR over this offseason, tied for the fifth-largest improvement in MLB, according to FanGraphs.
"What I like is that we have veteran guys. They don't care what happened here last year or in '18 (a year after a World Series championship)," Red Sox manager Alex Cora told the Boston Globe. "Each one of them, they have reasons to prove people wrong. ... This group knows what we can do, but the world doesn't."
The re-signing of Rafael Devers was surely the team's biggest offseason move. The 26-year-old third baseman, whose 246 extra-base hits since 2019 lead the majors, signed a 10-year extension in January.
At 83-79, Baltimore finished directly above Boston in the division and remains built around young stars like catcher Adley Rutschman and infielder Gunnar Henderson, who rose through the game's No. 1 farm system, according to MLB Pipeline's rankings.
The organizational depth was evidenced by No. 2 prospect Grayson Rodriguez being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Monday after the pitcher seemingly emerged as a favorite to make the team early in spring training.
"We're more talented than ever before since I've been here," O's manager Brandon Hyde said. "Even the guys that don't break with us, upper-level minor league guys, there's a lot of excitement about the talent that we have."
Other Baltimore newcomers include left-handed starter Cole Irvin, infielder Adam Frazier and catcher James McCann.
Gibson, who has a 1.57 ERA in 28 2/3 career innings at Fenway, was the Opening Day starter for Texas during a 2021 season in which he was an All-Star.
"Hopefully, (with) that first time that I've done it, you can get some of the extra nerves out, but I have a little bit of anxiety and nerves every start," Gibson said. "So you figure out how to use that and you figure out how to use that adrenaline in the right way."
--Field Level Media