BOSTON — Koji Uehara‘s performance during the Boston Red Sox’ 2013 World Series run left nearly everyone speechless.
Uehara was lights-out last season. The 38-year-old posted a 1.09 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings while compiling 21 saves in 73 regular-season appearances. Uehara then was equally as impressive in the postseason, saving seven games and giving up just one earned run in 13 2/3 innings (0.66 ERA).
“It wasn’t just fans that had their jaws drop. I had a pretty good vantage point from the bullpen, and he collectively dropped jaws as well,” Uehara’s teammate, Craig Breslow, said Tuesday. “The question I got tired of answering was, ‘How long can Koji do this?’ because at some point, that performance just became Koji. That’s what you expect.”
Breslow, who was among those in attendance for Tuesday’s Hot Stove Cool Music Roundtable at Fenway Park, also had a solid 2013 season, but he couldn’t help but be amazed by Uehara’s repertoire. Breslow, while noting that Uehara had an impressive track record even before joining the Red Sox last offseason, said Tuesday that he constantly tried to pick his teammate’s brain, which led to some interesting conversations in the Boston bullpen.
“I enjoyed sitting next to Koji and Junichi Tazawa in the bullpen. Despite the language barrier, we’ve been able to communicate,” Breslow said. “I remember probably 35 or 40 times during the season I asked Koji how to throw a split, and that question is immediately followed by, ‘Which split?’ And that leads to, ‘Do you want the 0-0, strike split? Do you want the 0-1, 82 mph, sinking split? Or do you want the 0-2, 84 mph, cutting split?’ Any accolade that you can give Koji is probably fitting.”
Uehara was named the MVP of the 2013 ALCS and finished seventh in American League Cy Young voting. More importantly, he’s now a World Series champion, and his overall effort is a big reason why.