What do Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien think of the rule changes?


NESN’s Dave O’Brien said there were concerns among other broadcasters ahead of the start of spring training that the pace of games this season might prove too fast, leaving little room for conversation between play-by-play voice and color analyst. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Thursday’s Red Sox home opener will mark the start of Joe Castiglione’s 45th season in Major League Baseball and his 41st as the home team’s radio voice at Fenway Park.

Corey Kluber’s first pitch will also mark the start of Dave O’Brien’s 34th season as an MLB broadcaster. He has been with the Red Sox since 2007, first in the radio booth alongside Castiglione, and since 2016 as a play-by-play announcer on NESN.

That’s thousands of innings. They have watched baseball go through different phases from their perches above the action. In recent years, they’ve seen baseball become a chore, with games regularly lasting 3½ to four hours.

And after taking a look this spring at various baseball rules designed to speed up the game – including the introduction of a pitch clock – they loved what they saw and have no worries about how the changes might affect broadcasts.

“It’s baseball at its most appealing, I think,” Castiglione said. “I’m a fan of the changes, definitely. Certainly.

“The pace is great. I think people find it a lot more fun. There is so much more action in the game. For [broadcasters], it keeps you alert all the time, very short time between throws. If you’re telling a story, you need to time it fairly well or be very concise. Your conversations with your partner should be tight. But there’s not a huge difference, really.

O’Brien said there were concerns among other broadcasters ahead of the start of spring training that the pace might prove too fast, leaving little room for conversation between voice play-by-play and the color analyst or to do the various commercials and promo plays that populate each show.

“It was like, ‘How are we going to get this on the show and this on the show?’ “O’Brien said. “But if you think about it, if you’ve been in baseball for a while, it’s not unheard of. When I started doing this 35 years ago, games regularly lasted less than three hours. And no one ever talked about how fast the game was going. And if you had a game that was over in about two hours, that was found money.

“For broadcasters who have been doing this for a while, it feels familiar and pretty close to the most appealing version of the game. There’s a lot of action there. Ground balls pass, and if they don’t no, it’s because an infielder made a great play. Players are stealing bases again. You see the athleticism coming back.

O’Brien even offers a friendly word of warning to fans who may not have been watching spring training.

“On opening day, it’s going to hit you in the face how fast it is,” he said. “It’s going to feel a bit like whiplash. It’s incredible. The pacing is phenomenal. I think the fans are going to love it.

O’Brien’s only complaint is that the rule changes didn’t happen sooner.

“It should have happened 10 years ago,” he said. “People no longer have infinite time to devote to a sporting event.

“And an airy spread is also better for everyone. We’ve spent so much time over the past 20 years filling four and a half hour games. Sometimes we are bored to death. It wasn’t fair to anyone. Those days are over.

Castiglione and O’Brien said they were more optimistic about the Red Sox than they were at the start of spring training. Castiglione is a big fan of rookie first baseman Triston Casas, in particular.

“I love Casas,” he said. “This kid knows the strike zone. He has real power and I love his personality. He reads books on the history of baseball. He is also an individual, a whole character.

“I said, ‘Why did you paint your fingernails red?’ He said: “Because I liked the color,” laughed Castiglione. “Quite simple.”

O’Brien remains the main play-by-play voice on NESN, with Mike Monaco having to call some games along the way. After the retirement of Dennis Eckersley last October, Kevin Youkilis will be the most assiduous analyst this season, with around 70 games under his belt. Up-and-coming Will Middlebrooks, Lou Merloni, Kevin Millar and Tim Wakefield (as a third voice offering a pitcher’s perspective) also get reps in the pit. Jahmai Webster is back as a sideline reporter.

On the radio side, Castiglione will announce 81 matches this year, including 60 at Fenway. It was his decision to reduce his schedule. Will Flemming will call the majority of the matches, while Merloni will also be a familiar presence on those shows. Sean McDonough, always a welcome voice, will also be back to call in the 25-game lineup.

Castiglione, who turned 76 on March 2, has two years left on that contract. Is he thinking of retirement?

“We’re going to play by ear, see what my wife thinks,” he said. “I have been blessed with excellent health. So I don’t foresee any problem.

Do you still like going to the stadium, Joe?

“Oh, yeah, I still like it,” he said. “And I think I’ll like it more with faster games.”


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