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
National

PHOTOS: Who is Alix Tichelman?

Who is Alix Tichelman, the high end call girl who allegedly murdered a Google executive?

National

Washington state approves first producer of pot edibles

  A Seattle-based company that makes marijuana-infused drinks and candies has become the first business in Washington approved to make edible pot products for the…

National

Florida cat owners call 911 after Russian blue…

By Barbara ListonORLANDO Florida (Reuters) - Kush the cat was quarantined in central Florida after her owner called 911 over the weekend for help, saying…

Local

Times Square costumed characters under scrutiny

Costumed characters in Times Square are under scrutiny after a string of incidents involving Elmo, Woody, Mario and Spider-Man.

Books

What to eat while you read

A smudge of chocolate on a page never hurt anyone.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, July 9: 'The Bridge,'…

See Diane Kruger solve some mysteries in the second season premiere of "The Bridge."

Music

Springsteen 'Hunter of Invisible Game' film debuts, shows…

Bruce Springsteen can do whatever the hell he wants. He's at the point in his career where he doesn't need to prove anything to anybody,…

Movies

Interview: Ethan Hawke can finally talk about 'Boyhood'

"Boyhood" star Ethan Hawke talks about having to keep quiet about the film's 12 year making, and how director Richard Linklater likes to show minutiae.

World Cup

Argentina prevails in penalties, advances to final

The drama never seems to subside as the World Cup finally has its final two.

MLB

A Joffrey Ballet dancer threw the most beautiful…

http://youtu.be/Hg61JOZJrYM?t=29s While asked to throw a first pitch at a baseball game can be a treacherous and/or embarrassing experience (see Cent, 50), sometimes everything can…

World Cup

World Cup semifinals preview: Holland vs. Argentina

The second semifinal pits another South American soccer power against a European one.

MLB

MLB power rankings: Athletics cement spot on top,…

The Athletics cement spot on top of our MLB power rankings with a huge trade, while L.A. teams follow.

Style

Give it up for French fashion: Bastille Day

In honor of Bastille Day we round up some French-inspired wardrobe essentials.

Tech

Potato salad Kickstarter reaches over $70,000

All Zack Danger Brown wanted to do was make potato salad and find a few dollars for ingredients, as Metro mentioned earlier this week when…

Education

American teenagers are lagging behind when it comes…

American high schoolers have a hard time answering basic questions about bank accounts, saving money and credit cards. That's according to a new study by…

Style

Where lotion and art mingle: Kiehl's new Nolita…

Kiehl's celebrates its new Nolita boutique.