Boston Herald

Kluber to get start on Opening Day

Yoshida continues to shine in World Baseball Classic

- By Gabrielle Starr gstarr@bostonhera­

Corey Kluber will be the Opening Day starting pitcher, the Boston Red Sox announced this week.

Over four starts this spring, the 36-year-old righty has a 2.13 ERA and 1.421 WHIP, with his ERA ranking sixth among qualified pitchers. He’s allowed three earned runs on 13 hits, five walks and 14 strikeouts across 12 2/3 innings.

The 12-year MLB veteran is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and threetime All-Star. He’s also one of several veterans on this year’s Red Sox roster looking to make a comeback.

After being limited to 24 starts (116 2/3 innings) between 2019-21, Kluber was able to pitch a full season last year for the first time since 2018. Across 31 starts (164 innings) with the Rays, he compiled a 4.34 ERA, 3.57 FIP and 1.213 WHIP. Though he put up his worst strikeout rate since 2013, his 1.2 walks-per-nine led the majors and his 3.1% BB% surpassed his previous career rate by 0.9%.

This will be the sixth Opening Day start of Kluber’s career, but his first since 2019, his final season — and fifth consecutiv­e Game 1 start — in Cleveland.

Third time through

The Braves shut out the Red Sox 8-0 on Friday, in part due to a rough fifth inning for Tanner Houck.

Houck looked dominant through four innings, allowing just one earned run (a solo homer to Matt Olson) on two hits, two walks and five strikeouts.

Entering the fifth, the 26-year-old righty had a low pitch count, and as a pitcher with the ability to work as a starter or in relief, the club was clearly looking to see how he’d fare when facing the order for the third time.

A double, flyout, RBI single, two-run homer (also to Olson) and groundout ended his day, and added three hits and three earned runs to his final line.

Sim pitchings

After playing 21 games in 20 days, the Red Sox had their first day off on Thursday, but Chris Sale kept working.

In an almost-empty JetBlue Park, with an audience that included his father and manager Alex Cora, the veteran southpaw pitched a five-inning simulated game.

Connor Wong, who’s working his way back from a low-grade hamstring strain, was behind the plate, and Nick Pivetta sat in as an umpire of sorts with help from the ballpark’s Automated Ball Strike System.

Facing four minor leaguers, Ryan Fitzgerald, Tyler McDonough, Chase Meidroth and Corey Rosier, Sale allowed one run on six hits, struck out nine, and didn’t allow a walk. Most notably, he worked his way up to 80 pitches.

This is Sale’s first normal spring training since 2018, and first healthy preseason since the year after. He’s slated to make two more spring starts and then get the ball on April 1, for the team’s second regular-season game of the year.

Sticky Stuff

Major League Baseball is ramping up its efforts to cut down on pitchers using foreign substances. What’s become known colloquial­ly as “sticky stuff” helps pitchers grip the ball and throw harder.

In a memo from league VP Michael Hill, the 30 clubs were informed umpires will do more frequent, extensive inspection­s of pitchers. Whereas pitchers were previously checked at the end of their first inning of work, they now might be inspected before or after their innings, including “randomized checks of fingers (including removal of rings worn on either hand of pitchers), hands, hats, gloves, belts/waistlines and pants.” Managers are also allowed to request that the umpire inspect a pitcher or position player.

According to analysis from The Athletic, the velocity and spin rates of fourseam fastballs took a serious dip after the initial crackdown in June 2021, but increased again in 2022. In July 2021, the average spin rate was 2,240 rpm and the average velocity was 93.7 mph; in September 2022, the averages were 2,292 rpm and 94.0 mph.

The implementa­tion of the pitch clock and stringent time limits is intended to speed up the game, but increased focus on sticky stuff and an uptick in inspection­s will likely detract from time saved.

WBC notes

Masataka Yoshida has been on fire in the World Baseball Classic. In five games with Team Japan, he’s 6-for-15 with a pair of walks, and has yet to strike out. In Japan’s 9-3 quarterfin­als win over Italy, he went 1-for-3 with a pair of runs batted in and his first home run of the tournament.

Yoshida’s 10 RBI not only leads this year’s tournament and set a new record for his team, but are also the third-most by any hitter in the history of the tournament. Given that Japan advanced to the semifinals, he has a chance to break the record (Wladimir Balentien’s 12 RBI with Team Netherland­s in 2017).

Rafael Devers, Richard Bleier, Jorge Alfaro and Rio Gomez (minor league spring training) are returning to Fort Myers now that their teams have been eliminated.

Yu Chang, named Pool A MVP despite Team Chinese Taipei being eliminated from the tournament, is reporting to spring training for the first time. He re-signed with the Red

Sox the day after pitchers and catchers reported, but as his team was playing in Taichung, wasn’t required to report before the WBC began.

Quick hits

Raimel Tapia continues to make his case for the 26man roster. The outfielder entered Friday’s game tied for the MLB lead in extrabase hits and tied for second in doubles. In 10 games, he’s 11-for-27 with five doubles, two home runs, two stolen bases, a walk and four strikeouts.

First baseman Triston Casas, 23, is the youngest person on the 26-man roster, but came into Friday’s game ranked in the top 10 (among qualified players) in batting average (6th), onbase percentage (8th), slugging percentage (6th), OPS (7th) and runs scored (T5th). He went 1-for-2 with a walk and strikeout in the loss.

 ?? RON SCHWANE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Rays starting pitcher Corey Kluber delivers a pitch against the Cleveland Guardians during the first inning of a Sept. 27, 2022 game in Cleveland. Kluber will get the start in Boston’s season opener.
RON SCHWANE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Rays starting pitcher Corey Kluber delivers a pitch against the Cleveland Guardians during the first inning of a Sept. 27, 2022 game in Cleveland. Kluber will get the start in Boston’s season opener.

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