Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Farrell: Uehara fit, won't be shut down
By Mark Polishuk, Special to ESPNBoston.com
TORONTO -- Between the regular season and the Red Sox's postseason run in 2013, Koji Uehara appeared in 86 games and threw 88 innings last year. That's a heavy workload for any reliever, especially one who turned 39 in April. Uehara pitched more in 2013 than he'd ever thrown in any season as a full-time reliever, either in Japan or in MLB.
Given that Uehara also has thrown 60 innings over 59 appearances in 2014, fatigue could be a factor for Uehara's recent struggles.
After allowing seven runs over his last 2 2/3 innings, Koji Uehara let three inherited runners score in blowing the save Monday.
"We're realistic that he's thrown a lot for us," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We're not going to apologize for pitching him for a full month extra last year so if there's some residual effect, it's possible. And he's thrown some high-leverage innings for us this year as well."
Uehara entered Monday night's game facing a bases-loaded jam and allowed all three inherited runners to score, turning a 3-0 Boston lead into a tie game. While Uehara wasn't charged with any of those runs, it marked another poor outing for the closer, as he had allowed seven runs in his previous 2 2/3 innings.
With the Sox playing out the string on 2014, there has been some speculation that the club could shut Uehara down in order to give some other relievers a look going into next season. Farrell, however, said that for now Uehara is just being used more sparingly.
"We've cut back [on usage] already," Farrell said. "We have not gotten to the point of shutting him down for the rest of the season and yet we're careful to make sure there's ample rest. In the last three outings, there's been two days off prior to each outing."
Shutting Uehara down would be an option if he were injured, but the reliever hasn't complained of any ailments.
"If there was something physical that was obvious, certainly we'd keep his health in the forefront of our thoughts," Farrell said. "But he claims that he's fit, healthy and not dealing with anything physical so we have to use that information as well."
Any hint of a fading arm would naturally weigh into Boston's decision about Uehara's future, as the closer will be a free agent this winter. The Sox could be wary about giving a big contract to a closer entering his age-40 season, despite Uehara's spectacular performance since joining the team.
Of course Uehara could simply be in a rare slump, as he had shown no signs of wear and tear prior to his last four outings. Uehara posted a 1.27 ERA over his first 56 2/3 IP this season.
* Xander Bogaerts' concussion symptoms have begun to clear up, Farrell said, and Bogaerts will now undergo the usual battery of tests required to clear him for play when his seven-day stint on the concussion DL is up.
Bogaerts hasn't played since Friday, when he was beaned by Felix Hernandez. He would be eligible to be activated Saturday, when the Red Sox are in Tampa Bay.
The infielder has been resting during the recovery process and hasn't been participating in any baseball activities, though those "will start to ramp up now that his symptoms have cleared up," Farrell said.