Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara is set to suit up for his first All-Star Game at age 39, making him the sixth-oldest first-timer in the Midsummer Classic’s history.
In the opinion of some of his fellow All-Stars, Uehara’s selection has been a long time coming.
“It’s great that Koji is here,” Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, a former teammate of Uehara’s in Texas, said Monday, via The Boston Globe. “He deserves it. I think he’s one of the most underrated players around.”
What exactly has made Uehara so dominant over the past few years (he’s 18-for-20 on save opportunities with a 1.65 ERA this season)? Well, it isn’t velocity.
“He has that invisi-ball,” said Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, another former Uehara teammate. “A lot of hitters around the league talk about that. I don’t know what it is. It’s 90-91 (mph) and acts more like a 94 or 95 mile an hour fastball. Then that split, it is what it is. It’s a devastating pitch.”
“I saw him pitch against us and he’s pretty filthy,” Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel added. “He doesn’t throw hard but he moves the ball well. That split-finger is disgusting. He comes off the field with a win and in the closer’s role, that’s what you have to do. How you do that doesn’t matter.”
Although Red Sox skipper John Farrell will also be managing the American League squad in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Uehara does not expect to be the one on the mound in the final inning. He believes that honor instead will be given to Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins, who will be pitching in his home ballpark.
“I have a feeling that the closer for the Twins will be in that role,” Uehara said through translator C.J. Matsumoto, via MLB.com. “I don’t think it will be me. I’m going to be in the very end of the dugout, trying to keep out of the spotlight.”
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