Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Tazawa 'all business' about closer role
By Gordon Edes
BOSTON -- Junichi Tazawa did not break out of character when Red Sox manager John Farrell informed him he would be the closer for the foreseeable future.
"He responded as he has to most everything," Farrell said Tuesday. "Very stoic. He kind of anticipated it somewhat and much like he pitches, [he was] very much under control. He's all business, and he's no different in this situation."
Tazawa, 26, saved four games for Triple-A Pawtucket and one for the Sox in 2012, but this is the first time he has been ordained closer in the big leagues, even if it may be a short-lived assignment; Andrew Bailey is eligible to come off the disabled list next Tuesday.
He was just as reserved with reporters as Farrell described him. When it was mentioned to him that Bailey said every reliever wants to close, Tazawa played it straight.
"I had always concentrated on the task at hand," he said through interpreter CJ Matsumoto. “That has been my mindset from the beginning. Those players have gone down, so I guess it’s a chance, but I will focus on what’s at hand."
Tazawa has made 16 appearances this season, tied for second in the AL, and has been scored upon in just three of them. Opposing batters are hitting .216 overall against him, with lefties batting just .188 (6 for 32). He has 18 strikeouts and 3 walks in 14 1/3 innings.
“The one thing he does so well when we brought him into tight spots, he understood the task at hand," Farrell said. “He’s able to channel the adrenaline internally the right way. You don’t see him outwardly bailing from a challenge or running from contact. He’s a believer in his abilities, and we’re looking forward to that playing out in the ninth inning."
Farrell could have opted for a more experienced closer in Koji Uehara, who saved 13 games for the Orioles in 2010 and 32 for Japan’s Yomuiri Giants in 2007. There were a couple of reasons he offered for why he didn’t. One was his preference for avoiding using Uehara in back-to-back games.
The other was that he believes the team is better served with Uehara remaining in the setup role he is currently occupying.
"Koji’s done an excellent job in that seventh, eighth inning for us," Farrell said. "With the addition of Craig Breslow in that mix, I feel like we've gotten more options to match up in that bridge to Junichi as a closer, and I like the fact that Junichi's got power to his pitch mix.
"He's been effective against lefties and righties as well. I think the late-inning guys we have here do a very good job of controlling the running game. All things considered, Junichi is the choice."