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Saturday, October 1, 2011
Bullpen roundup: Count on Koji Uehara?

By Tim MacMahon

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Everybody who came out of the bullpen gave the Rangers exactly what they needed, with one glaring exception.

The next out Koji Uehara gets in a postseason game will be the first.

Koji Uehara
Koji Uehara hasn't had the impact the Rangers had hoped for and was unable to retire a batter against the Rays in Game 2.
Uehara, the veteran righty acquired from Baltimore for Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis before the trade deadline, faced three batters in the seventh inning. Desmond Jennings walked. B.J. Upton singled to left field. Evan Longoria homered to left-center.

Just like that, a comfortable lead was slashed to a single run.

It didn’t cost the Rangers the game, as Darren Oliver, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz combined to retire nine of 10 batters while shutting the Rays out the rest of the way. Whether it costs Uehara a prominent spot in the Rangers’ bullpen the rest of the postseason remains to be seen.

Alexi Ogando, who has gone from the rotation to the bullpen for the postseason, looked sharp while throwing in the high-90s during a scoreless sixth inning. He performed well in the playoffs last season, certainly giving manager Ron Washington a viable option if he doesn’t want to give Uehara the ball in pressure situations.

“When we traded for Mike Adams and Uehara, we traded for them for those situations,” Washington said. “Uehara just didn’t get the job done tonight.”

Uehara hasn’t gotten the job done far too often since coming to Texas.

The 36-year-old Japanese righty had a 1.72 ERA in Baltimore this season, but he’s allowed 11 earned runs in 18-plus innings for the Rangers (5.50 ERA). The long ball has been especially problematic, particularly at the launching pad in Arlington. He has given up six homers since the trade, including four at home.

Uehara said that he was trying to get Longoria to hit a pop-up. He instead induced a 421-foot fly ball. Whoops.

Uehara claims that his confidence hasn’t been shaken.

“No, I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said through a translator.

How much longer can the Rangers rely on him in October?