Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara continues to deny that his surprising struggles are a product of his heavy workload over the last two seasons.
Uehara, who blew his second straight save opportunity Monday before the Red Sox defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 in 10 innings at Rogers Centre, told reporters after the game that he isn’t worn out despite racking up 148 innings since the beginning of 2013.
“It’s nothing about fatigue,” Uehara said through a translator.
Uehara surrendered five runs — the most he’s ever allowed in a relief appearance — on five hits and a walk over two-thirds of an inning Friday night against the Seattle Mariners. He suffered the loss in what could only be described as a shocking meltdown.
The right-hander struggled again Monday. He entered with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning as the Red Sox led 3-0. Uehara allowed all three inherited runners to score, with Edwin Encarnacion sending the game to extra innings with a two-run double beyond a leaping Yoenis Cespedes and off the left field fence.
While Uehara wasn’t charged with an earned run Monday, his collapse certainly adds to a sudden reality that the 39-year-old is human. Uehara has allowed seven earned runs on 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings over his last four appearances, raising his ERA from 1.27 to 2.25.
“I’m sure it’s part of it,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said when asked if fatigue has played a factor in Uehara’s recent woes. “To say to what extent, that’s probably debatable. But there’s no denying the number of appearances that he’s had over a very extended year last year and the number of appearances this year. We try to give him ample rest between outings, but he’s been in a little bit of a tough stretch of late.”
Farrell noted that Uehara’s stuff hasn’t been quite as good in recent outings. His splitter, in particular, hasn’t been the same, which is something that was evident again Monday on Encarnacion’s game-tying double.
“It’s about my split,” Uehara told reporters in Toronto. “I’m not controlling it.
“All I can say is that I’m not finishing the pitches as I want to,” Uehara added.
The Red Sox currently have no plans to shut down Uehara for a period of time, according to Farrell. With the season already lost and Uehara turning 40 before Opening Day next season, however, there might come a point where Boston seriously considers the possibility.