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Could Koji Uehara be answer to Red Sox’ closing problem?

06.27.13 at 10:45 pm ET
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Koji Uehara is taking to this closing thing pretty well.

The reliever recorded his second save in as many nights as the Red Sox, pitching a flawless ninth inning to close out the Red Sox’ 7-4 win over the Blue Jays Thursday night. Uehara needed 16 pitches (10 of which were strikes) to turn in a ninth inning in which he recorded two of his three outs via the strikeout.

Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

The performance delivered Uehara’s third save of the season, with his first coming back on May 17 against the Minnesota Twins. After Thursday night’s win, manager John Farrell spoke of Uehara’s capabilities as a closer.

“He’s got strike throwing ability. As we saw with the leadoff hitter Adam Lind, he gets in a 2-1 count, he’s got that split he can slow some hitters down,” the manager said. “But regardless if it’s the ninth, or sixth inning, he doesn’t change his approach and has a pitch to get himself back into a given count.”

In three save situations in the 2013 campaign, Uehara has converted all three opportunities. Over those three innings he has yet to surrender a hit or a run and has struck out six.

The Red Sox have struggled with blown saves this season, carrying the majors’ third-worst save percentage (58 percent, 15-for-26). Those struggles led to Andrew Bailey getting stripped of his job, with Uehara filling the spot. So far, he’s offered a stabilizing presence, with saves on back-to-back days on Wednesday against the Rockies and Thursday against the Blue Jays.

That ability to return to the mound on consecutive days has been somewhat in question for the 38-year-old right-hander, given that he’s had issues with his durability in the past. But he’s performed well when pitching in back-to-back games. In seven such contests, Uehara has yet to give up a run; opponents are hitting .136 with a .208 OBP and .227 slugging mark against him on the second of back-to-back games.

When asked of Uehara’s durability in the closing role moving forward, Farrell noted, “Each time he’s pitched on back-to-back, he’s been as efficient, as successful.”

For the Sox, that comes as a form of relief that they’re rarely been able to enjoy this year.

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