BRADENTON, Fla. — Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa picked up Monday right where they left off last season.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell has been adamant that Uehara and Tazawa will be monitored closely this spring training as the two Japanese pitchers return after career-high workloads in 2013. Neither hurler showed any ill effects of last season’s heavy lifting on Monday, though, as Uehara and Tazawa worked a scoreless fourth inning and fifth inning, respectively, in the Red Sox’s 7-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Uehara, who is coming off an historic 2013 campaign in which he posted a 1.09 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and 11.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 73 regular-season appearances before thriving in October, retired all three hitters he faced Monday. The lively righty struck out Robert Andino and Starling Marte, and retired Clint Barmes on a popout.
Uehara said following his outing that he probably won’t know until the regular season whether last year’s workload will impact him at all in 2014. But the 38-year-old also noted that he’s comfortable enough with the Red Sox’s coaching staff to express his opinion if fatigue hits.
Tazawa issued a one-out single to reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen in the fifth inning, but that was it. The 27-year-old, who is coming off a career-high 68 1/3 innings over 71 appearances last season, otherwise looked sharp in his first outing of the spring.
“He was fine,” Farrell said after Monday’s game. “The one thing that Taz showed today, I thought, was much better depth to his split-finger or his forkball — something that he’s worked with altering his grips, where at times it can get a little bit short. But today was probably the most depth we’ve seen out of the split, and he comes into camp showing good arm strength and I think overall really pretty fresh.”
Uehara, who effectively used his own splitter Monday, said he doesn’t believe the pitch’s effectiveness is tied to any physical advantages, such as finger length. Uehara instead insisted that a good splitter is case-by-case.
“I just feel that the Japanese pitchers know a split is a good pitch,” Uehara said through translator C.J. Matsumoto. “I know that not all of the pitchers who have that pitch will succeed, but I know it’s a very good pitch.”
Pretty much all of Uehara’s pitches were good in 2013, and Tazawa, who posted a 3.16 ERA, was very dependable, too. The Red Sox certainly can be encouraged by what they saw Monday.