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Dennis Eckersley on M&M: Koji Uehara ‘magical’; Jon Lester not a No. 1 starter

08.08.13 at 12:15 pm ET
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Dennis Eckersley

Dennis Eckersley

NESN Red Sox analyst Dennis Eckersley checked in with Mut & Merloni on Thursday morning, and the former standout pitcher spoke highly of a number of Red Sox hurlers, most notably closer Koji Uehara.

Uehara pitched a scoreless ninth for his 11th save of the season in Wednesday’s 7-5 win over the Astros. Since taking over as closer, the right-hander is posting a 0.40 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings while limiting opposing batters to a puny .120/.143/.173 slash line.

“That guy is magical. He throws a fastball by guys like it’s 100 mph. It’s magic,” Eckersley said. “Aren’t you relaxed when comes in? I wonder if he’s going to punch out the side. And you’re talking about swinging and missing — I’ve never seen anything like it. … The game is over [when Uehara enters]. The game is absolutely over. Be careful with this guy. I just feel like he’s so precious — please don’t go down.”

Uehara is one of only a couple of rocks in a bullpen that still has a couple of question marks. Eckersley commended rookie left-hander Drake Britton, who has given up one run in 11 1/3 major league innings, and said Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa could offer a lot as relievers.

Still, their transition from starting to coming out of the ‘pen won’t necessarily be smooth, according to Eckersley, who himself switched from being a starter to reliever midway through his 24-year career.

“If they’re not going to go out and get a relief pitcher, they have to figure this thing out,” Eckersley said, later adding on De La Rosa, “I’m not quite sure if he has the makeup yet. You have to go out there a few times. You can’t be throwing him out there in September. You have to get his confidence up, put him out there three or four times.”

Eckersley was also confident in the team’s rotation, particularly with the addition of Jake Peavy, who he compared to right-hander David Cone, a 17-year major league veteran who played for the Red Sox in 2001.

Peavy is particularly important with Ryan Dempster and Jon Lester not always pitching as they have in the past. That said, Eckersley expects Lester to figure it out sooner or later.

“We can overanalyze Lester sometimes. The bottom line is he’s got everything to do it,” Eckersley said. “He’s been around so long, you make more and more adjustments. … Is he a No. 1 starter? No. But it’s all there. Not that I’ve been critical of him, but he just doesn’t do it the way we want him to do it. It’s not like it’s not there. And he can dial it up and throw three or four in a row and it wouldn’t surprise me.

“We’ve heard about all his tweaks in his mechanics, and every time you start hearing that, that means there’s something wrong in your head. The guy’s been around that long and we have to hear about how he’s holding his hands lower or higher? Let it go.”

Eckersley commended Felix Doubront — a “confident … kid [who] is really developing into one of the best left-handers in the game” — and expects Clay Buchholz to make his highly anticipated return this season.

The question then, however, is what Buchholz can provide.

“Can he possibly be what he was? Because what he was was ridiculous,” he said. “How can you come back and do that? Let’s just get him back. I was worried there for a while, but now that he’s on the mound and starting to torque it a little bit, my concerns have lessened. But I don’t think we’re going to get what he left with.”

To listen to the interview, visit the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Brandon Workman, Clay Buchholz, Dennis Eckersley, drake britton
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