After deciding not to place closer Koji Uehara on the disabled list earlier in the month, the Boston Red Sox have reaped the rewards of having him in the game. Uehara sat out the entire series with the New York Yankees from April 10-13 because of tightness in his right shoulder. In fact, other than throwing long tosses and bullpen sessions, he stayed off the field until April 17 while he worked out the tightness. Since then, Uehara had returned to his old dominating self.
Uehara not only pitched in two of the last three games, but he pitched great: 2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 3 K, 1 BB, and 2 saves. He is now 4 for 4 in save opportunities and has shown no ill effects of the tightness or missing an entire week of action. Throwing on the side has kept his shoulder loose and ready to pitch in the clutch.
Overall, the Red Sox lead the American League in bullpen ERA at 2.44 as play begins on Easter Sunday. This performance led me to give the bullpen an A- on my April 18 Red Sox progress report, the only A I gave the team. Except for Burke Badenhop and Edward Mujica, the bullpen is viturally untouched. Four relievers (Chris Capuano, Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Uehara) have not yet allowed a run in 29.2 innings combined.
If the offense (D+) steps up its production as expected, then the Red Sox will start winning. They have scored 12 runs in the last two games, both wins, since the progress report. Badenhop and Mujica will turn things around soon. Anyone can have a rough start, and just one or two bad outings early can make an ERA balloon. Mujica has the track record of a very good reliever, and Badenhop has pitched well in recent years.
With division games still ahead for the next two weeks, the Red Sox can either make a run toward the top or sink fast. The offense, mainly, will determine which way the team goes, but if they give the pitchers leads, then the team will make that run. The starters (B+) will hold down the opposition, and the bullpen will close it out — especially Koji Uehara. He is back.