Legends On Deck

Koji Uehara – Cause for Concern?


“I didn’t talk about it at that time. I think I’m over it. I’m not going to go into specifics, but it wasn’t fatigue,” Uehara said through his translator Monday during his first encounter with the media following a disastrous 2014 season.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past that Koji Uehara was untouchable. The aging veteran did not throw the ball particularly hard, but the movement in his pitches mixed in with his quirky delivery left hitters unbalanced and guessing. Following his dominating 2013 season, which ended with a World Series, Koji came back to earth in 2014. While talking to the media through his translator on Monday (2/16), Uehara indeed confirmed that he was battling a “physical” ailment towards the end of the 2014 season.

It was extremely clear that there was something wrong with Koji for the better part of last season. In six appearances, from August 16 to September 4, Uehara’s ERA looked more like Shaq’s free throw percentage at 19.29. His velocity, which already tops out at 89 MPH on a good day, was more along the lines of 85 MPH. His pitches were not moving as much as they came across the plate and hitters were playing pepper of the Green Monster. Although he swears that he is good to go for this season, Red Sox Nation should be eery of Koji Uehara in the future.

There is no doubt that he can still pitch effectively in the Major Leagues. There is also no doubt that Boston is going to run Koji into the ground. However, the Red Sox cannot rely on Uehara like they have in the past. Sure, he will be great in April and May and probably pretty good in June, but I do not have confidence in a 40 year old who tops out at 87 MPH to get the final three outs in a World Series game. If the Red Sox are expecting to get 80 innings out of their closer this year, they will need to look at making a move for another closer or have a “closer by committee,” featuring Edward Mujica, Koji Uehara, and, I hate to say it, but Junichi Tazawa.

(Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)


  1. AshevilleSoxFan

    February 20, 2015 at 2:29 PM

    Nice article Pete,

    While most of the Sox nation is clamoring for an ace to lead our starting staff, I like the staff that Ben built, it won’t be the best in the league but it should be solid and he didn’t blow through our resources to build it. My concern (like yours) is the pen, it just doesn’t look upper echelon to me, and if Koji struggles the Sox will be awfully thin back there

    • Pete Packowski

      February 20, 2015 at 2:36 PM

      Thank you for the kind words. If that Sox are in contention, which I think they will be, they will more than likely bolster the bullpen by trading extra, major league ready outfield talent and lower level prospects. Guys like Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, and Daniel Nava could bring back a quality bullpen piece, which you and me both are longing for.

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