Coinciding with the home opener, Koji Uehara was activated from the disabled list on Monday, after being limited in Spring Training due to a hamstring injury. His first save opportunity came on Tuesday night against the Nationals and he did not disappoint.
In an 8-7 Sox win Uehara threw 14 pitches, 10 for strikes, as he was his usual efficient self on the mound while strikinng out two. A very loud foul ball was hit by Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, that went just foul down the left field line, so close to being fair the umpires reviewed it. Fortunately for the Red Sox the call on the field was upheld and Uehara got Zimmerman to fly out to left field on the next pitch.
Uehara’s return signaled the end to Edward Mujica in the closer spot for the time being. Mujica gave up two solo home runs in his two appearances before Tuesday night. Mujica got the win Tuesday night after going 1 1/3 striking out two. It is still expected that John Farrell will call on Mujica when Uehara needs a day or two of rest, as fatigue could be a factor this season for him, so that is something to keep an eye on.
With Uehara’s return, Tommy Layne was sent down to Pawtucket where he will join Dana Eveland as a lefty in the bullpen. Craig Breslow and Robbie Ross Jr. remain the lefties out of the bullpen for the big league club.
The expectations for Koji Uehara this season are something Red Sox fans seem unsure of. Can he be the lights out closer like he was for the tail end of 2013 and early 2014? Or will he struggle like he did in the second half of last season? Seeing a clean inning from the closer is obviously a good sign, but for the Sox to feel confident in their bullpen, it starts with the closer. With some shaky starts from the rotation the past few days and that 19 inning contest from last week, the bullpen has been used quite often, so a healthy and effective Uehara will only help pitchers like Robbie Ross Jr. and Anthony Varvaro get acclimated to their roles on this club.