Koji Uehara’s recent struggles haven’t changed the Boston Red Sox’s opinion of the veteran closer.
Uehara’s ERA has jumped more than a full run — 1.27 to 2.36 — over his last five outings, in which he has blown two saves and suffered two losses. The Red Sox still are interested in retaining Uehara in free agency this offseason, though, as the late-season woes are being viewed internally as the exception rather than the potential norm.
“He’s obviously been a huge part of our success last year and our team this year,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters before Wednesday night’s game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. “His performance, you guys see. He’s certainly someone we’d like to have.”
Uehara has allowed at least one earned run in four of his last five appearances. His lone scoreless appearance in that span is misleading, as it involved him allowing three inherited runners to score en route to a blown save. But even though Uehara will turn 40 before Opening Day next season and has shown signs of fatigue as the Red Sox limp toward the finish line this season, the organization is confident in his ability to thrive in 2015.
“Not really a concern,” Cherington told reporters. ” … This couple of weeks or whatever, it’s not the level he’s used to, but I think it’s more the outlier.”
It’s possible the Red Sox could extend Uehara a qualifying offer after this season. A $15 million price tag is a bit high for an aging reliever despite his success over the last two seasons, but the Red Sox need a closer for 2015, when they intend to return to contender status. Losing Uehara obviously would be a blow.
Uehara has posted a 1.66 ERA, a 0.72 WHIP and a 10.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 133 regular-season appearances spanning 135 1/3 innings since signing with the Red Sox before the 2013 campaign. He also was lights-out in the playoffs last season as the Red Sox claimed their third World Series title in 10 years.