FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Sunday Chaim Bloom becomes the teacher.
The Red Sox' Chief Baseball Officer is scheduled to meet with a group of Red Sox coaches -- including interim manager Ron Roenicke, a man 27 years Bloom's senior -- to help educate the group in the art of using an Opener.
"It’s hard for me to really talk about the Opener because I’m not as familiar with that," Roenicke admitted. "I don’t really know kind of what the game plan is on how you cover those innings because you’re covering more innings obviously if your starter is just going one or two you’ve got to figure out how you’re getting through those middle innings and if you’re winning that middle guy is probably going to be shorter because now you’re winning the game and you're bringing in your best earlier in the game to win the game so Chaim is actually going to talk to us (Sunday) on this. He’s obviously familiar with it, so as a staff he’s going to address us tomorrow and just help us see what the thinking is and all these scenarios that do come up and it’s not always one formula. He said it changes from game to game, depending on whether you’re winning, depending on whether you’re losing, depending on whether that second guy that comes in is actually really good or if he’s an inning eater. And all these things change. So I’m looking forward to listening a little bit more on, if we end up this way, how to go about it the best way."
So, what exactly is Bloom's message when it comes to the idea of replacing a traditional starting pitcher with a reliever?
Let's start with what the executive feels is the No. 1 priority.
"I think communication," Bloom told WEEI.com. "It requires a lot of communication among the staff and between the staff and the front office and most of all between the staff and the players. That’s what the staff with the Rays did so well, making sure the players understood as much as possible why. If you stick to the principle of just trying to do what we can to help everybody have success and help us win, that’s the most important thing to keep in mind. That’s what we want to communicate. It’s not about being dogmatic that it has to be this way. It’s figuring out what is going to be best for us and our players and help us win the most."
The situation the Red Sox find themselves in isn't all that different than where the Rays were when first hatching the idea of using the Opener in 2018. Tampa Bay was already short a starter in its rotation when Nathan Eovaldi hit the injured list, leaving Bloom's former team with a lot of innings to fill and a stable of young, unproven pitchers left responsible to pick up the slack.
For the current Red Sox, they are not only without Chris Sale for most likely his first two scheduled starts of the season but are without a clear-cut candidate for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Hence, the Opener idea.
"It evolved more organically from a lot of conversations we had over the course of years about what is the best way for pitchers to be put in a position to help us win," Bloom recalled. "Kevin (Cash), Kyle Snyder, Charlie Montoyo, Stan Boroski deserve so much credit for driving it. It came from that place of just looking at the talented pitchers we had and saying how can we set these guys up for success and how can we set ourselves up to win. Everybody always kept their eye on that ball. When you have good people doing that and working together and working through things you can get to a pretty good place.
"It fell out of having a number of young pitchers who we liked who we thought were all well suited to get hitters out in the big leagues but probably not in the traditional way. Instead of focusing on a structure we didn’t feel fit our players, we focused on tailoring the structure to the strength of our players."
Closer Sergio Romo was first to officially take on the role, starting games on May 18, 22 and 23. The Rays' Openers would finish that season with a combined ERA of 3.93, paving the way for other teams to attempt the strategy. Now it seems to be the Red Sox' turn.
But first, a conversation has to be had.
"I think part of the reason it makes sense to use this time to have a lot of conversations about it is because it is a little different and I happen to have some experience with what it feels to contemplate that day in, day out over the course of the season," Bloom said. "There are a few things from that experience I think would be helpful to the group. But I think the big thing is to not overcomplicate it. When we did it with the Rays it was all about just trying to put everybody in a position of success so we can win as many games as we could. As long as you stay true to that I think you will get where you need to go on a given day."