Koji Uehara

Step in right direction for Koji Uehara

Rob Bradford
April 28, 2015 - 1:30 am
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It was perhaps one of the more worrisome early-season signs for the Red Sox. Not only the image of Koji Uehara blowing the save in Baltimore Saturday night, but doing so with an 85 mph fastball that he clearly didn't feel comfortable throwing. The result was an ineffective primary pitch (split) and outing. Monday night, Uehara doused some of the concerns. The Red Sox closer needed 16 pitches to turn in a perfect ninth inning, which included a pair of strikeouts. But beyond just the result, Uehara's optimism stemmed from the actual pitches he was presenting. This time there were four fastballs (3 strikes) which lived in the 88 mph area, allowing for significantly different reaction from the Blue Jays hitters. "With the pitch selection, I told Hani [catcher Ryan Hanigan] that I wanted to throw a lot more fastballs in this outing," Uehara said through a translator after the Red Sox' 6-5 walkoff win. The reliever added, "I recognize the importance of the fastball after the last outing. That'€™s what I took out of that outing." Red Sox manager John Farrell, for one, took notice of the difference in the two appearances. "Second night in Baltimore was first time he'€™s gone back to back all year so hopefully he'€™s gaining some arm strength," Farrell said. "A couple of days off seemed to be a little bit rejuvenated. Better finish to not only the fastball but to the split. Encouraging night from him as well." Uehara knows there is more to prove, having still thrown his fastball just 17 percent of the time compared to the 40-plus percent he had totaled the last two seasons. "I still don'€™t know if it'€™s good or not because I haven'€™t thrown a lot of the fastballs this season," he noted. "I think I still need to work on it."