Koji Uehara Makes His Return to the Sox

Koji Uehara

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.Koji Uehara 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.

PawSox Set Opening Day Roster

PawSox

While the Red Sox opened their season on Monday afternoon with a win in Philadelphia their full season minor league affiliates all open with night games on Thursday.  The PawSox will open the season in Lehigh Valley, against the interestingly named Iron Pigs, the Phillies AAA affiliate.

On Tuesday it was PawSox media day, which was moved inside due to inclement weather—something to always be expected during April in New England. The PawSox players, staff, and new owner James Skeffington, were all on hand to answer questions regarding the upcoming season. PawSoxThe PawSox, coming off a Governor’s Cup Championship, have another loaded roster. Eight out of the top ten Red Sox prospects according to MLB.com are on the PawSox opening day roster, with many who made appearances in the big club last September.

The expected starting rotation for the PawSox early on this season will be lefties Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and Eddie Rodriguez, and righties Matt Barnes and Keith Couch. All five made starts with the PawSox last season while Barnes was with the team for most of the season. Barnes, who was working in spring training as a reliever, was one of the final roster cuts and will be stretched out as a starter. Brian Johnson will have the privilege of the Opening Day start after an eye opening spring, where he quite possibly declared himself next in line, should an injury occur in the big clubs rotation.

In the bullpen the PawSox will feature a good chunk of players with major league experience, some with the Red Sox. Right handers Miguel Celestino, Heath Hembree, Dalier Hinojosa, Noe Ramirez, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Workman are joined by the lone lefty Dana Eveland. Workman was moved to the bullpen by the Sox this off-season and was quoted saying, “I’ll pitch when they tell me to warm up.” The uptick in his velocity is seen to be a reason for the move, and the 2013 postseason was an example of his success out of the pen.

It is rare a roster features three catchers—never mind four—but the PawSox start off the season with four on their roster. Humberto Quintero accepted his assignment to AAA and will likely be the backup for  #1 Red Sox prospect Blake Swihart who will start the season in Pawtucket after making a good impression this spring. Matt Spring and Luke Montz join Swihart and Quintero as the backstops to start the year.

The infield has its own set of veterans with Travis Shaw, Garin Cecchini, and Deven Marrero returning from last season, joined by major league veterans Jeff Bianchi and Jemile Weeks. Newcomer Sean Coyle spent all of last season in AA Portland and was added to the 40 man roster this winter.

The outfield is what Bryce Brentz referred to as the “no fly zone.” Brentz returns to the PawSox and will be joined by Jackie Bradley Jr., Quintin Berry, and the highest paid player in the minors Rusney Castillo. All outfielders have major league experience and one has to believe Castillo will not be with the PawSox for long. Brentz introduced a new leg kick to his swing this off-season, which took much of spring training to get comfortable with. The Red Sox have depth in the outfield in the major leagues, but these outfielders are all serviceable should an injury occur.

Many Red Sox fans recognize a lot of the names on this PawSox roster and, I predict, will see a lot of these players appearing in Boston at some point this season. The PawSox home opener is Thursday April 16th against the Rochester Red Wings.