Closing Time is Koji Time?


Jun 28, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara (19) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays during the ninth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox have not had much, if any, success with the closing pitcher role since the departure of Paplebon after the end of the 2011 season. Andrew Bailey was signed that offseason as the replacement for Paplebon but then was places on the DL to start the 2012 season and thus Alfredo Aceves was named the Opening Day closer.

As closer Aceves only recorded 25 saves in 2012 and had a record of 2-10 with a horrible ERA of 5.36. I don’t know about you but I do not want a closer to have that high of an ERA.

Bailey returns to the Sox mid August and retakes his rightful spot as closer. We all knew Aceves was only keeping that spot warm waiting for Bailey’s highly anticipated debut in a Red Sox uniform. Then the disappointment continued. His 1st game in against Baltimore resulted in a loss and the struggles continued the rest of the season as he finished with a 7.04 ERA and only 6 saves.

After the 2012 season ended the Red Sox were on the lookout for another closer and found Joel Hanrahan. The Sox traded for him and announced Bailey would be the setup guy and Hanrahan would take over as closer when the 2013 season got under way. After recording 36 saves for Pittsburgh and putting up a 2.72 ERA in 2012 this seemed like the Sox finally had an answer at the closer spot.

Unfortunately this was not the answer. Hanrahan only recorded 4 saves and had a horrendous ERA of 9.82. Come to find out he needed to have season ending Tommy John surgery. Enter Andrew Bailey round 2.

In 2013 we are seeing pretty much the same Bailey we saw in 2012 and that was and is a disappointing thought and a truth that many were not willing to believe or accept. He only has 8 saves with a 4.63 ERA and 5 blown saves, 3 of those coming in his last 5 opportunities.

After blowing the save in last Thursdays game Manager John Farrell made the decision to relinquish Bailey as closer and move Uehara into that role. His first opportunity in the position of closer did not come until Wednesday night against the Rockies and was he more than ready for the task. He got the save by striking out the first and 3rd batter he faced in a 1-2-3 inning. On Thursday he was asked to the mound again to close it out against the Blue Jays and again got 2 strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning. Could he go 3 for 3? Well Friday night we found out that it was possible. Koji got the first 2 batters he faced to strikeout, bringing his strikeout total to 6 versus 8 batters. He then forced a ground out and again had another perfect inning and got the save for his 3rd night in a row and got the Sox their 4th win in a row. With the last 3 scoreless innings as closer Koji has a total of 9 scoreless appearances in 8 and 2/3 innings.

Whether or not Koji stays the closer for the rest of the season or not is unsure but if he keeps this up I will be more than happy to keep him high fiving from the mound after games versus going to the dugout as a reliever. With 3 straight saves, 3 perfect innings in a row and a 2.03 ERA this season it might just be Koji time in the 9th inning, for the remainder of this season anyways.