Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara was banged up last year; had little doubt would return to Red Sox

Rob Bradford
February 16, 2015 - 9:10 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It turns out there was something going on with Koji Uehara's health last season, after all. Speaking after his first training camp workout at JetBlue Park, the Red Sox closer explained his downturn in the season's second half. "It was more physical," Uehara said. "I didn't talk about it at that time. I think I'm over it." He added, "I'm not going to go into specifics, but it wasn't fatigue." Uehara went on a six-game stretch in which he allowed opponents a .500 batting average while succumbing to 19.29 ERA. After taking an eight-day hiatus, the righty finished the season with three scoreless outings. "I probably needed the rest and felt good after," said Uehara, who started his throwing program upon returning to Japan in late November. "But I'm not going to look back and wonder what I should have done. I'm just going to look toward the future." Was the September rest necessary? "I think if you look back, yeah," he said. Uehara also offered an explanation as to why he signed his two-year, $18 million deal with the Red Sox instead of testing free agency. "No doubt at all," he said when asked if there was any question he would be re-signing with the Red Sox. "It was the only team I talked to so I was pretty sure if I was going to sign it was going to be with the Red Sox. "Since the Red Sox had offers of multiple years that really erased any doubts going into the offseason as a free agent. ... Because of my age, it was very important." The Red Sox have made it clear that Uehara enters the season as their closer. But with the late-season struggles, coupled with the second-half emergence of Edward Mujica (2.30 ERA in his last 34 appearances), the 40-year-old is taking nothing for granted. "I don't feel it was guaranteed, the closer role," he said. "I'm have to earn it, so that's what I'm going to do."