TORONTO -- Call it the $4.25 Million Victory.
Okay, so Koji Uehara didn't exactly earn his new contract just for his 1 1/3 perfect innings during the Red Sox's 4-2 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday, but his "vulture" win in extra innings was Uehara's 55th appearance of the season. That was enough to trigger the vesting option in Uehara's contract and earn him a guaranteed $4.25 million salary for 2014. The terms match his original one-year, $4.25 million deal for the 2013 season.
News of Uehara's contract option broke on Monday and the closer himself said he hadn't been paying attention to the impending vesting plateau.
"I didn't think about it at all. If I did, I wouldn't be able to pitch as I have been pitching," Uehara said through a translator.
While some teams would hesitate to guarantee that much money to an aging reliever (Uehara turns 39 next April), there is no doubt that Uehara has been worth it. The Japanese right-hander has posted a 1.32 ERA over his 55 appearances, recording 75 strikeouts (against just nine walks) over 54 2/3 innings of work. Uehara has a 2.57 ERA over 212 games with the Orioles, Rangers and Red Sox since coming to major league baseball before the 2009 season.
Uehara signed with Boston last December and began the season in his customary role as a setup man, only to be called upon to stabilize the team's closing situation after Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were both ineffective and eventually lost to season-ending injuries. Uehara has converted 11 of 13 save opportunities since being given the closer's job in late June, a performance good enough to quiet the trade rumors about the Sox potentially looking for closing help.
Red Sox manager John Farrell described Uehara as "a savior" for the Red Sox before Tuesday's game, and said his closer was "more than deserving" of another contract.
"He's been an outstanding pitcher for us from day one," Farrell said. "We don't foresee that changing because of the competitor he is and how talented he is and how he prepares. He's done one hell of a job in the roles that he's filled.”
The closer's job has also had the side effect of adding a bit more money into Uehara's bank account this season. Uehara received a $125,000 bonus once he finished his 15th game of the year, and he'll receive an extra $125K for every five games he finishes hereafter. Tuesday marked Uehara's 24th finished game of 2013, so he has already earned an extra $250,000 and another bonus could come as early as tonight.