Koji Uehara has found a late-career groove with Red Sox

Red Sox pitcher Koji Uehara has been rock solid coming out of the Boston bullpen this season. Credit: Getty Images
Red Sox pitcher Koji Uehara has been rock solid coming out of the Boston bullpen this season. Credit: Getty Images

When Red Sox closers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey went down with season-ending injuries there was much concern surrounding the position, especially with the Sox leading the AL East and possessing one of the better records in all of baseball.

No one on the roster had any real closing experience and most Red Sox fans remembered that the last time the team implemented a “closer by committee” plan, it didn’t work out so well. Junichi Tazawa was given a shot, but the pressure got to him and he was more comfortable in a set-up role. Aside from making a trade, the Sox had no other choice but to give Koji Uehara a shot, which they did, and it may have been the best decision they’ve made all season.

 Since taking over the closer’s role on June 26, in save situations, Uehara is 1-0 with 10 saves and a 1.49 ERA with 19 strikeouts. Until Saturday night, all of his saves were perfect appearances. Closing games in Boston might feature some added pressure, but not for Uehara.

“Not really,” Uehara said through an interpreter. “I just feel happy to be throwing in the major leagues.”

The 38-year-old Uehara pitched from 1999-2008 with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan before coming over to the states and pitching for the Orioles followed by the Rangers and the Sox. He is now in his fifth MLB season.

The key for Uehara is his ability to throw strikes and get hitters out quickly. He entered Saturday leading AL relievers in strikeout/walk ratio at 8.8 and was second in strikeouts with 70, as well as opposing batting average with opponents hitting just .150 against him.

Over his last 25 games since June 10, Uehara is 2-0 with a 0.35 ERA while walking three and striking out 36 in that span as well as holding opponents to a .094 batting average. His focus starts before he even takes to the mound.

“I think the key is when I am warming up, I always concentrate on hitting the spots and that carries over into games,” Uehara said.

There is a minor concern with Uehara and the number of appearances and outings he’s made so far this season. As of Sunday he’s appeared in 51 games and thrown 50 1/3 innings. Prior to this year he hadn’t thrown more than 47 innings in a season since 2011 when he tossed 65 innings in 65 appearances.

“I threw a lot of quality innings when I started my major league career as a starting pitcher in the states,” Uehara, who hurled 66 innings in 12 starts for the O’s in 2009, recalled. “I don’t worry about it. I just go through my routines and don’t worry about anything else.”

As the Red Sox prepare for what is sure to be an exciting and dramatic playoff race in the last two months, it’s a sure bet that Uehara will be facing some pressure-filled situations. This doesn’t seem to faze Uehara as he is just happy to be pitching in the big leagues.

“It’s not just this year, playing in the major leagues has been a dream come true,” he said.

Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Apple says its systems not to blame for…

By Edwin Chan and Christina FarrSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The week before a crucial launch of its new iPhone, Apple Inc said intimate photos of…

Local

Tallest residential building planned for lower Manhattan

A residential tower planned for lower Manhattan will soar 1,356 feet in the air -- just 12 feet shy of 1 World Trade Center. When…

Local

Bronx man commits suicide by decapitation

A Bronx man committed suicide Monday morning in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx by decapitating himself. According to the NYPD, the 51-year-old man…

Local

Top cops enroll in Twitter course at John…

NYPD officers are reportedly getting a lesson on the best way to use 140 characters or less. The New York Post reported Tuesday top officers…

Arts

Pop culture and prostitutes: New Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit at…

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec documented the cult of celebrity and the rise of pop entertainment in his prints, posters and lithographs — now on display at MoMA.

Arts

PHOTO: Extreme artist Eskil Ronningsbakken balances unicycle on…

Extreme artist’ Eskil Ronningsbakken balances on the edge of a cliff face at 4,600 feet – on a unicycle. The Norwegian travels across the globe, balancing over vertiginous ravines, tall…

Music

Hear two previously unreleased Adele songs

Missing some Adele in your life? Two previously unreleased songs from the singer have appeared online.

Music

Lincoln Center just made 'Lord of the Rings'…

Middle Earth already has sweeping vistas, a hero's journey and technology-revolutionizing special effects. But next April, the Lincoln Center will add another dimension to Peter Jackson's…

NFL

Michael Vick set to be weekly guest with…

Mike Francesa may need to backtrack from his harsh commentary of Michael Vick now that the Jets backup quarterback will be a weekly guest on his show.

NFL

Jets expect to make playoffs after sitting on…

The same pundits who predicted the Jets would be woeful a season ago are now eying the playoffs for this revamped team.

NFL

Antonio Allen returns to practice after concussion

Antonio Allen was cleared to practice again following his concussion two weeks ago.

Sports

Belinda Bencic leads crop of young stars serving…

Belinda Bencic, a 17-year-old Swiss Miss, beat two Top-10 players before suffering a disappointing loss Tuesday in the quarterfinals.

Parenting

In defense of making a mess during playtime

"Recipes for Play" authors Rachel Sumner and Ruth Mitchener think playtime should involve the five senses and making a mess is part of the fun.

Wellbeing

Jason Hope helps push anti-aging efforts forward

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article When it comes to age-related illness, the direction of modern medicine seems more reactive than proactive. In…

Wellbeing

Today's Doomsday preppers: a closer look at survivalist…

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. The term “Doomsday prepper” is often associated with the paranoid, anti-government stereotype of the 1990s. The truth…

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…