Chaim Bloom looking forward to a fun 2023 Red Sox team full of grinders
BOSTON -- Watching the Red Sox has been a roller coaster the last few years. The team has either made a run at a World Series, or finished in last place in their division.
Just look at Chaim Bloom's three seasons as Chief Baseball Officer of the Red Sox. He has a 92-win season and a trip to the ALCS under his watch in 2021, but that's been sandwiched between a pair of last-place finishes. The team's 84-loss campaign in 2022, and the offseason departures of some key figures including Xander Bogaerts, doesn't inspire much hope for 2023.
But Bloom has an incredibly optimistic view of the team that he's built, one that he believes can compete this season. The 162-game grind starts Thursday when the Red Sox open the season at Fenway Park against the Orioles. It will either mark the start of something special, or a long summer for Boston baseball fans.
Bloom is excited for what lies ahead though. He's had three pretty unique offseasons since coming to Boston, beginning in 2020 when he not only had to deal with a pandemic, but also had to trade away Mookie Betts.
While the Red Sox lost some key free agents like Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, and Michael Wacha, Bloom was able to bring in a handful of veteran leaders -- and winners. First baseman/DH Justin Turner, center fielder Adam Duvall, set-up man Chris Martin, and closer Kenley Jansen have all put together quite the careers, and each of them has won a ring over the last three years.
Bloom also landed the prize of the international pool, signing Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida to a five-year, $90 million deal. After tearing the cover off the ball at the World Baseball Classic, Yoshida is now slated to bat cleanup for Boston.
Add that to Rafael Devers, who is fresh off signing a 10-year, $313 million extension that makes him the face of the franchise, and Boston should score plenty of runs in 2023. Looking up and down the lineup, Bloom sees a team that is going to make opposing pitchers work -- and hopefully cringe -- throughout the season.
"I think it's going to be a team that grinds and it's going to be a fun team. At our best, we're going to grind every at-bat," Bloom told WBZ-TV's Dan Roche at Fenway Park on Tuesday. "We're going to make you work, make you throw strikes, and we're going to put the ball in play."
On paper, the Red Sox could surprise some folks in 2023. They may not be high on anyone's power rankings at the moment, but that could change if some things -- a lot of things -- go their way over the next six months.
Bloom's confidence received a big jolt after he saw how the team came together throughout the spring.
"The energy we had here wire-to-wire was incredible. You have a group of guys who are already coming together really well," said Bloom. "There's a very good atmosphere in that clubhouse and I think that can lead to those extra, little advantages where guys bring the best out of each other. It's an individual game, but it's also a team game. When those things are combining well, you have a chance to really be your best."
Starting pitching remains the biggest question mark on the team. The Red Sox have plenty of back-end caliber starters, a group highlighted by the up-and-coming arms of Garrett Whitlock and Brayan Bello along with 2022 workhorse Nick Pivetta. But the front of the rotation is relying on 38-year-old Corey Kluber (Boston's Opening Day starter) and Chris Sale, who has made just 11 starts over the last three years because of a litany of injuries.
Bloom and the Red Sox are hoping that Sale, after he put together a promising spring, will regain his form from 2017-18 when he was one of the best pitchers in the American League.
"He had a great spring and has a spring in his step that hopefully carries into the season," Bloom said of Sale. "This is the happiest I've seen him since I've been here, because he feels good. This guy, when he's on a mission, he's unlike anyone I've ever seen in a Major League clubhouse."
Last year's faulty rotation led to an overworked bullpen that crumbled early in the season. Bloom went out and got Jansen, Martin, lefty Richard Bleier, and flamethrower Joely Rodriguez to provide some relief to the team's relievers.
"We know the depth [of our bullpen] is going to be tested. It was last year and we had to throw some guys into the fire before we wanted to," said Bloom. "All those guys learned from it and have grown from that.
"We need to be relentless and consistently attacking the strike zone," Bloom added of his pitching staff. "If we do those things, and the baseball gods smile on us, it's going to be a fun summer."
While summer feels so far away on a raw and cool day in Boston, Bloom had a smile that could warm up the entire New England region when he spoke about Thursday's Opening Day.
"Every Opening Day is special. It's the anticipation, the nerves, everything leading up to it -- it's just exciting. Opening Day is when you take a deep breath and really start climbing up that mountain," he said.
"It's special every year. Anyone who loves baseball should never take a single Opening Day for granted," Bloom added. "Soak it in, enjoy everything about it. I don't know that there's anything like it in any sport. It's a wonderful thing and I can't wait."
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