Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa, Red Sox deny reliever battling fatigue despite rough August stretch

Ryan Hannable
August 23, 2015 - 2:52 pm

While the team and Junichi Tazawa may not be acknowledging it, it appears the Red Sox reliever is battling some fatigue. Tazawa allowed four runs on six hits in the ninth inning blowing the save in the Red Sox' 8-6 loss to the Royals Sunday at Fenway Park. The right-hander has thrown 68 1/3 and 63 innings each of the last two seasons and already has thrown 53 this year. Including Sunday, Tazawa has allowed nine runs in eight appearances in August. Going into the month he had allowed 14 runs over 46 appearances. "I feel fine. Fatigue is not a factor," Tazawa said through a translator. Interim manager Torey Lovullo said he didn't think fatigue has been a factor either. "Not really," Lovullo said. "I think when you look up there and see he's throwing his fastball in the mid-90s, he's locating his fastball, he's able to throw secondary quality stuff, I don't see much wear and tear on him at all. He wants to go out there and compete and he just didn't get the job done today." Last year, Tazawa had an ERA of 2.61 in the first half of the season and 3.24 in the second half. It's much of the same this year, as he posted a 2.58 ERA in the first half and his second half ERA currently stands at 6.97. Another possible reason for the struggles is a change of role, as Tazawa is currently the Red Sox' closer with Koji Uehara out for the season. "I think he's bumped up a role and as I've been saying over the past couple days we're going to be patient through the process with a lot of these guys in changing their roles and continue to give them the ball," Lovullo said. "It's a learning moment for Taz and I think as we keep moving forward he's going to be better off from his moment. Of course we don't want to lose any games. Our expectations were to go out there and take care of business and close things out in the ninth." Tazawa was given a shot at the closer's role back in 2013 before Uehara took over and after struggling in a few appearances, he said he didn't feel comfortable in the role. Two years later, he's still trying to adjust now that he has the role, as there is no one else in the bullpen capable. "It certainly is an adjustment," Tazawa said. "I don't want to risk or give up a loss for that adjustment, but certainly I will learn from this." As for the adjustment playing a role in Sunday's performance, Tazawa said that wasn't everything. "Certainly there is a different type of nervousness involved, but for this particular instance maybe the weather, the slippery ball had more to do with it," he said. As the Red Sox play out the remainder of the season, it's almost certain Tazawa will get more opportunities to close out games and he and the team hope Sunday will just be a learning experience to help the reliever get back to his normal self.