Saturday, May 11, 2013
Tazawa's confidence intact despite blips
By Tony Lee, Special to ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- Since being named closer earlier this week in the wake of another injury to Joel Hanrahan, Boston Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa has yet to face the real pressure of closing out a win, throwing just twice in non-save situations.
Adam Lind's home run ruined the day for Junichi Tazawa and the Red Sox.
That doesn't exclude him from the scrutiny of the masses, especially after serving up a tiebreaking homer in the top of the ninth inning of Boston's 3-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
Tazawa, whose first month was impressive enough to vault him into the closer's role when Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were hurt, has given up four runs in 4 2/3 innings over his past six outings. It is a small sample, but quite notable, since it comes at a time when the team is scrambling to plug gaps at the back end of the bullpen.
"I still have my confidence, but I feel that I was given the chance to succeed, so I feel bad about it," Tazawa said through an interpreter in the minutes after Adam Lind crushed a 2-2 slider over the wall in center for the decisive blow. "But I still have my confidence."
So, too, do those who saw Tazawa go 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA while walking none in his first 9 2/3 innings out of the bullpen.
"It was a pitch he didn't execute, and he paid for it," catcher David Ross said. "That's a major league baseball game. We've got to execute pitches. It's one of those things that happens here and there, and Taz has been doing a great job for us.
"He's one of the best. That's why they chose to put him in the closer role while the guys are out. Just one of those things."
Red Sox manager John Farrell said he has seen nothing to indicate alarm with Tazawa. The stuff is still there, as is the power, Farrell said.
"Location is going to be the key in any situation," said Farrell, citing not only the hanging slider to Lind, but a poorly placed fastball that Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion took out April 30 in Toronto.
While working in what became a 15-8 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday, Tazawa's effectiveness was not a significant concern as it relates to wins and losses. That game was largely in the bag. While not a save situation, pitching in a tie game carries with it much more significance. Lind's blast and Brett Lawrie's hard single to right made for a less-than-ideal response from Tazawa, and if not for a caught stealing on Lawrie, the inning might have dragged on a bit more.
With that first save opportunity looming, Tazawa remains steadfast that the slightly brighter lights have not had an effect.