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Junichi Tazawa avoid arbitration, agrees to 1-year deal 01.20.16 at 9:32 pm ET
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Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

Two down, one to go.

The Red Sox find themselves just one Robbie Ross Jr. contract agreement from extending their streak of not having to participate in an arbitration hearing to 14 years. (The last time they had to experience such an endeavor was prior to the 2002 season, when Rolando Arrojo lost his case, ending up at the club’s figure of $1.9 million.)

The latest settlement to get done is Junichi Tazawa, who agreed to a one-year, $3.375 million deal with the Red Sox Wednesday. It was the reliever’s third year of arbitration eligibility. Tazawa had filed with an arbitration figure of $4.15 million, with the Red Sox countering at $2.7 million.

Tazawa is expected to once again be counted on for late-inning relief, joining Koji Uehara, Carson Smith and Craig Kimbrel as the group being counted on for high-leverage, late-inning outs.

The 29 year old slumped badly in the second half of the 2015 season, ultimately being shut down for the season’s final three weeks. Tazawa posted a 2.58 ERA and .215 batting average against prior to the All-Star break, while managing just a 7.08 ERA and .386 BAA after.

The Red Sox already agreed to terms with Joe Kelly, who avoided the arbitration process by agreeing to a one-year, $2.6 million deal in his first year of eligibility.

Ross Jr. remains the only arbitration-eligible member of the Red Sox to still not agree to terms.

Read More: arbitration, Joe Kelly, junichi tazawa, Red Sox
Closing Time: Junichi Tazawa, Red Sox bullpen implode again in loss to Rays 09.11.15 at 10:38 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval couldn't catch up to this Chris Archer offering. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Pablo Sandoval couldn’t catch up to this Chris Archer offering. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Remember when Junichi Tazawa was good? It’s becoming a distant memory.

As the Red Sox assess areas in need of improvement for 2016, the bullpen belongs atop the list. On Friday night in Tampa, Tazawa continued a horrid stretch by blowing a save in the eighth inning as part of an implosion that turned a potential 4-3 Red Sox victory into a demoralizing 6-4 loss.

This one was on Tazawa, whose struggles date to the start of the second half. He took a 5.40 ERA since the All-Star break into his appearance, and that was before submitting the following horror show: double, single, wild pitch, homer, single, wild pitch, steal, strikeout, mercifully lifted.

When Noe Ramirez allowed another homer, that closed the book on Tazawa, who ended up allowing four hits and four runs in just one-third of an inning.

He now owns a 6.95 ERA in the second half and has allowed opposing batters to compile an OPS of over 1.000. Interim manager Torey Lovullo told reporters in Florida that the club has no plans to shut down Tazawa.

“I don’t think so, no,” he said. “We know he’s had 71 outings back-to-back years, he’s into the 60s now. I really don’t think so. He’s a guy that’s in tremendous shape. He wants to be in that moment. I just think fastball command right now is a little bit inconsistent. They hit a couple good pitches tonight. I want to give them a little bit of credit.”

It’s too bad, because Tazawa’s implosion ruined what had the look of another encouraging victory. The Red Sox overcame an immediate 3-1 hole against overpowering Rays starter Chris Archer to knock him out of the game after five-plus innings. The Sox then rallied for three runs in that frame and appeared to be in line for the win until Tazawa decided otherwise.

Left-hander Wade Miley delivered one of his grittier efforts of the season, overcoming Tampa’s three-run first to silence the Rays until Tazawa took over in the eighth. Miley allowed seven hits and three runs in seven innings, striking out five and walking none.

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Junichi Tazawa, Red Sox deny reliever battling fatigue despite rough August stretch 08.23.15 at 6:52 pm ET
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Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

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.

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Closing Time: Marlins get better of Red Sox in battle of worsts 08.11.15 at 10:45 pm ET
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MIAMI — This Koji Uehara-free closer thing has never really worked out too well over the past three seasons, and Tuesday night was no exception.

Carrying a one-run lead into the ninth inning, the Red Sox turned to Junichi Tazawa to pick up his second career save. But the reliever couldn’t get the job done, allowing the Marlins to score a game-tying run in the ninth.

What it would ultimately lead to was a 5-4, 10-inning win for the worst team in the National League, the Marlins, beating the worst team in the American League, the Red Sox, at Marlins Park.

“It’s something that we talked about pregame,” Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo said of the decision to use Tazawa as a closer. (Lovullo was subbing in for John Farrell after the manager’s hernia surgery). “With lineup construction, depending where we were in the lineup with certain matchups. We didn’t have a closer with certainty. We just figured based on where we were in the lineup, the way we wanted to construct it and have the right matchups. The way it lined up was with [Jean] Machi in the eighth and Tazawa in the ninth.”

Miami sealed the deal in the 10th against Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow. After Breslow gave up a leadoff triple to Dee Gordon, Lovullo decided to walk Martin Prado.

The move didn’t quite work out despite a strikeout of Derek Deitrich. With one out, the lefty-hitting Justin Bour rifled the game-winning hit into left-center field to score Gordon.

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Closing Time: Junichi Tazawa’s troubles continue in Red Sox’ loss to Tigers 08.08.15 at 10:19 pm ET
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Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

With all the talk about how the Red Sox need to fix their starting rotation for next season, an equally as daunting task may be rebuilding the team’s bullpen.

The latest example of how far the Red Sox relievers have fallen came with two outs in the seventh inning Saturday night, with Junichi Tazawa facing Detroit’s Victor Martinez while trying to preserve a one-run lead.

As has been the case of late, the outcome was not good for Tazawa or the Red Sox.

The Red Sox reliever hung a split-fingered fastball to Martinez, who launched a go-ahead two-run blast into the right field seats. The hit would be the decisive blow in the Tigers’ 7-6 win over the Sox.

With the home run, Red Sox relievers had allowed opponents a .623 slugging percentage for August. Tazawa continues to exemplify the bullpen’s downturn, coming into the game having allowed a .382 batting average and 1.059 OPS against since the All-Star break.

Heading into Saturday, Red Sox relievers’ batting average against was .308 in August, with the bullpen’s ERA standing at 5.40 for the month.

The loss was made even more frustrating for the Red Sox considering they had come from behind earlier in the seventh, with David Ortiz‘s two-run single giving the visitors a lead. It was Ortiz’s third hit of the night, as he doubled in the first inning and hit his 23rd homer in the sixth.

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Closing Time: Junichi Tazawa allows 2 runs in 8th inning as Red Sox can’t hold lead vs. Rays 08.02.15 at 4:45 pm ET
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Wade Miley picked up his ninth win of the season Sunday against the Rays. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Wade Miley received a no-decision as Junichi Tazawa allowed two eighth inning runs to take the loss. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Junichi Tazawa has been the Red Sox‘ most dependable reliever this season, but even he can have a bad day once in a while.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox and Wade Miley, Tazawa allowed two eighth-inning runs in the their 4-3 loss to the Rays, spoiling a good start from Miley.

With the Red Sox leading 3-2 in the eighth, Evan Longoria doubled to lead off the inning and scored on Asdrubal Cabrera’s ground-rule double. Cabrera scored on a single by James Loney for the game-winning run. Tazawa picked up his fourth loss of the season.

“Today you have five consecutive fastballs to Asdrubal [Cabrera], which is a little bit uncommon for him and the last one leaked over the plate,” manager John Farrell said. “Even against Longoria to lead off the inning — tried to go down and away, ball ends up back arm side and close to Evan on that particular pitch. It’s been fastball location that hasn’t  been as sharp in those moments.”

Koji Uehara tossed a scoreless ninth inning.

Things didn’t get off to the best of starts for Miley. After allowing five first inning runs his last time out, Miley allowed a leadoff home run to Brandon Guyer to open the game, but quickly settled down.

The left-hander retired the next seven hitters, getting into a good groove. Miley finished going 6 2/3 innings allowing two runs on five hits, while walking a batter and striking out four. Robbie Ross entered with a runner on third and two outs and after hitting a batter and a walk, he struck out Joey Butler to get out of the jam.

“A very good assortment of all his pitches,” Farrell said of Miley. “I thought he blended his offspeed pitches in well against the heavy right-handed hitting lineup. The 3-2 fastball that Guyer runs into to get things started, but other than that he was in command for the time he was on the mound today.”

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Why Junichi Tazawa didn’t pitch in Friday’s 12-8 loss to Astros 07.04.15 at 12:44 am ET
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Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa has been used in 36 of the 82 games this season, by far the most on the team and tied for 11th-most in the American League.

After not appearing in a game since June 28 and the Red Sox being in a tie game in both the eighth and 10th innings, it was quite a surprise not to see Tazawa used in a game the Red Sox fell 12-8 to the Astros.

Following the game it was unveiled why.

“He needed the series off in Toronto given how much the work load was in Tampa Bay He threw a bullpen earlier today. After the bullpen he was deemed OK and yet advised not be be used tonight — to not get him warmed up or hot twice in one day,” manager John Farrell said. “He will be available for tomorrow, but that was what the plan laid out to get on the mound today, but not be available tonight. Otherwise he would be in the eighth or the tenth, either of those situations.”

The Astros scored a run in the eighth inning on a leadoff home run by Carlos Correa off Craig Breslow and then tagged Noe Ramirez, who was making his major league debut, for four runs in the 10th inning, as he took the loss.

“It was the coaches’ decision to have some rest. It was all in the coaches’ hands,” Tazawa said through a translator following the game.

Overall, Tazawa is 0-3 with a 2.62 ERA on the year. He hasn’t allowed a run over his last four outings, spanning five innings.

For more Red Sox news, check out weei.com/redsox.

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Red Sox allowing 9 runs in seventh inning adds to list of rock bottom moments this year 06.13.15 at 12:10 am ET
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Junichi Tazawa allowed five runs (four earned) as part of the Red Sox bullpen allowed 9 in the seventh inning. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Junichi Tazawa allowed five runs (four earned) as part of the Red Sox bullpen allowed 9 in the seventh inning. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

It’s June 13 and already too many times has the question been asked, “Is this rock bottom?”

That growing list got another addition Friday night when the Red Sox bullpen allowed nine runs in the seventh inning, as the Red Sox blew an 8-1 lead, falling to the Blue Jays 13-10. It was their fourth straight loss.

According to Elias, Toronto became the first team to score nine runs before recording an out in an inning since the Red Sox scored 12 runs in the sixth inning on May 7, 2007. The Blue Jays also overcame a deficit of at least seven runs for the fifth time in club history.

“It was a long inning, obviously,” manger John Farrell said. “We know that they are an explosive, big-inning type of offense and that played out. Tried to stay right-handed because of that lineup and use the big part of the field. They were able to fight off a number of good pitcher’s pitches and didn’t miss any time we made a located pitch on the plate. Couldn’t slow them down until the final nine-run tally.”

Red Sox starter Joe Kelly had exited the game and in came reliever Matt Barnes, who faced three batters and allowed hits to all three. Then in came Junichi Tazawa, who the Blue Jays own, and he allowed three straight hits before an error by third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

Then, with the game knotted at eight, Russell Martin delivered the big blow with a three-run triple to the triangle in right-center, ending Tazawa’s night and there still being no outs in the inning.

Things didn’t get any better, as Tommy Layne entered and he was greeted with Justin Smoak crushing a two-run homer into the Monster seats, before he was able to retire the next three hitters in succession and mercifully end the inning.

The inning featured 12 hitters, nine runs, eight hits, one error and three different Red Sox pitchers.

“It’s a tough loss, every loss is pretty tough, but it’s stuff like that that happens in baseball — not all the time obviously, but pretty weird game to watch,” Kelly said. “Just crazy how those guys kept hammering the baseball.”

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Read More: Joe Kelly, John Farrell, junichi tazawa, mike napoli
Power isn’t everything to John Farrell when it comes to a good bullpen 04.18.15 at 7:18 pm ET
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Edward Mujica

Edward Mujica

As the Red Sox assembled their 2015 bullpen over the winter, there were some questions as to whether they had enough “power” arms in the back end of games.

Power bullpens have become all the rage among those teams who fancy themselves World Series contenders. Kansas City is the most classic example, as the Royals rode a trio of 98-plus arms to the Fall Classic last year. Detroit has had success in the past employing a similar formula. In the National League, St. Louis has had a great deal of success with pitchers who overpower batters at the end of games, led by Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez (now a starter).

But the Red Sox saw a different way. With Matt Barnes the only true power arm in camp with a shot at the roster, and with names like Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Edward Mujica already with spots on the club, the Red Sox decided to go in a different direction. The Red Sox added Anthony Varvaro, Alexi Ogando and perhaps the hardest thrower of the bunch, Robbie Ross Jr.

The results have not been bad so far. Entering Saturday, in 42.2 innings, they’ve allowed 33 hits and walked 14 for a 1.10 WHIP. The ERA is 2.74 and they allowed four of 12 inherited runners to score. They’ve had just two save chances and converted one, with Mujica’s blown chance in New York being the only missed opportunity.

If Red Sox relievers have proven anything, they’ve shown you don’t have to overpower batters to get good results, including strikeouts, recording 37 so far in 2015 before Saturday.

“Location is important but I think what we have are a number of relievers that use an assortment of pitches rather than rely on arm strength and velocity,” Farrell said. “Bottom line is outs. How they get them, the ability create some mishits. Sure, strikeouts are good but we have guys capable of strikeouts, even though they’re of average major league velocity.”

Another trait Red Sox relievers have is experience. And with experience comes adjustments. Mujica threw mainly fastballs on April 10 in New York before Chase Headley timed one and tied the game. Friday night, he opened with seven straight splitters and recorded a key strikeout of Manny Machado to bail out Joe Kelly.

“His last two, three outings, he’s gone to that pitch a little bit more than the night in New York where there were a high number of consecutive fastballs,” Farrell said of Mujica. “That’s not to say he doesn’t have confidence in his fastball. He’s not afraid to throw it for a strike and put a hitter away with it.”

That was followed by scoreless performances from Tazawa and Uehara, both masters of the split-fingered fastball.

“Well, it says in those games, our bullpen has pitched very effectively, and that was certainly the case [Friday] night,” Farrell said. “We had a lot of experience last year in one-run games. Unfortunately, it might not have always been to our advantage. We have veteran players that made good decisions in moment on the field.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Edward Mujica, junichi tazawa, Koji Uehara
Junichi Tazawa says recent struggles not due to fatigue 08.19.14 at 12:49 am ET
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The runs will go down as unearned for Junichi Tazwa, but the onus falls on him alone.

Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth inning, Howie Kendrick hit a ground ball back to the mound that should have been an easy inning-ending double play. But as the ball rolled to the third-base side, Tazawa was indecisive on whether or not to backhand the ball to make the play at home.

Instead, the right-hander misplayed the ball, then threw it away trying to get the lead runner at home, allowing a second run to score. The result: two errors for Tazawa and two runs for the Angels to extend their lead to 4-1 in an eventual 4-2 win Monday night.

“It was an in-between play. I was thinking of going to the backhand or just go with the front and I was caught in between,” Tazawa said through an interpreter. “If I had knocked it down straightforward I would’ve had a better shot. It rolled to the third-base side so that made it a little bit difficult, but I should’ve made that play.”

Even without the errors, it was another tough outing for Tazawa, continuing what have been regular occurrences as of late. He gave up a leadoff walk to Chris Iannetta, a double to deep center to Kole Calhoun and loaded the bases by intentionally walking Albert Pujols.

Tazawa has been one of the Sox’ most reliable relief pitchers in the last two seasons, posting a 3.18 ERA in 119 innings since the start of 2013. But his recent struggles have made it natural to suggest that his workload might be catching up to him in the last two months. He has a 5.29 ERA since July and has put runners on base in 13 of his 21 appearances in that time, leaving himself in a number of difficult spots.  Read the rest of this entry »

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