Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa says recent struggles not due to fatigue

August 18, 2014 - 8:49 pm

The runs will go down as unearned for Junichi Tazwa, but the onus falls on him alone. With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth inning, Howie Kendrick hit a ground ball back to the mound that should have been an easy inning-ending double play. But as the ball rolled to the third-base side, Tazawa was indecisive on whether or not to backhand the ball to make the play at home. Instead, the right-hander misplayed the ball, then threw it away trying to get the lead runner at home, allowing a second run to score. The result: two errors for Tazawa and two runs for the Angels to extend their lead to 4-1 in an eventual 4-2 win Monday night.

"It was an in-between play. I was thinking of going to the backhand or just go with the front and I was caught in between," Tazawa said through an interpreter. "If I had knocked it down straightforward I would've had a better shot. It rolled to the third-base side so that made it a little bit difficult, but I should've made that play."

Even without the errors, it was another tough outing for Tazawa, continuing what have been regular occurrences as of late. He gave up a leadoff walk to Chris Iannetta, a double to deep center to Kole Calhoun and loaded the bases by intentionally walking Albert Pujols.

Tazawa has been one of the Sox' most reliable relief pitchers in the last two seasons, posting a 3.18 ERA in 119 innings since the start of 2013. But his recent struggles have made it natural to suggest that his workload might be catching up to him in the last two months. He has a 5.29 ERA since July and has put runners on base in 13 of his 21 appearances in that time, leaving himself in a number of difficult spots. 

Tazawa, however, said the struggles have been a result of mental fatigue more so than physical.

"I don't feel different physically compared to last year," he said. "It's probably a more mental thing, giving up unlucky hits here and there. But I still appreciate the team using me in an important role so I try to do my best."

He added: "I try not to have it affect my pitching negatively. I think if I'm aggressive against the hitters those kinds of hits will be caught so I just want to be more aggressive and attack the strike zone."

Tazawa said more hitters are being aggressive against him to prevent him from throwing his splitter, something he's counteracted with an increased use of sliders and curveballs.

"I think that's something I have to adapt to but I think I have the weapons," he said.

Now Tazawa just needs the type of results that made him so reliable a year ago.