NEW YORK — The Red Sox are an evolving team, not unlike the rest of the teams in the American League East right now. They stand out in a negative way because they’re the defending World Series champions, but they are showing flaws and injuries much like Tampa Bay, New York, Baltimore, and Toronto.
The latest issue is Koji Uehara.
Of all people to go down, he would be one of the three most significant losses. Uehara’s shoulder stiffened during long toss before Friday’s game and he shut it down for the night. He said he went to manager John Farrell and told him he didn’t think he could be available.
“Early before the game Koji felt stiffness in his throwing program so we felt it was best to stay away from him. It was precautionary. We felt this would be a good day to stay away from him. It’s a day-to-day thing,” Farrell said.
Farrell went to Edward Mujica, the former St. Louis Cardinals closer, who earned the save in a 4-2 win over the Yankees.
Yet, the story was Uehara.
The one thing he said that gives one cause for concern was that he had this same injury in Texas two years ago.
Asked how long it took to recover he said, “it eventually took two months because the issue resurfaced.”
Neither Uehara nor Farrell thought this was going to be a long-term issue. The Red Sox, normally very cautious in these matters, decided the problem wasn’t serious enough to send him back to Boston for tests.
When asked if the recovery could take as long as the Texas injury, Uehara said, “No, not at all.”
And whether he’d have to go on the disabled list?
“It’s not ultimately my decision so I can’t really tell,” Uehara said.
If it is a minor hiccup, the 5-6 Red Sox will go on nicely.
Yet, if Uehara is all right, would you rather be the 5-6 Red Sox right now, or the 6-5 Rays?
The Rays may lose 17-game winner Matt Moore to Tommy John surgery and they are replacing him with Erik Bedard. The Rays don’t have the pitching depth in their farm system that they once did, so they’re thinning out.
Would you rather be the 5-6 Yankees than the 5-6 Red Sox?
The Yankees are missing No. 3 hitter Mark Teixeira and closer David Robertson. They still have to be wondering what’s happened to CC Sabathia, who pitched well for five innings Friday night, allowing just one hit before the Red Sox started to solve him, first with a Jonny Gomes homer and then Grady Sizemore’s three-run homer.
Would you rather be the 4-6 Orioles than the 5-6 Red Sox?
Their big free agent acquisition, Ubaldo Jimenez, has been a bust in two starts. Entering Friday the Orioles’ starting rotation ranked 12th among the 15 teams in the AL in ERA.
The Orioles also started the year without injured superstar third baseman Manny Machado.
Would you rather be the 6-5 Blue Jays than the 5-6 Red Sox?
The Jays have definitely played better than anticipated so far, but let’s face it, they don’t have the pitching depth to carry them past the Red Sox or other teams in this division.
The Red Sox keep searching for their new identity.
They don’t have a leadoff hitter to speak of, though Gomes had two hits from that spot after two terrible at-bats Friday. They are hurting at third base where the Ryan Roberts/Jonathan Herrera platoon is very inconsistent.
The Red Sox are experimenting in the outfield, moving Sizemore to left field and Jackie Bradley Jr. to center for the Yankee series so they can cover more ground in the expanse of Yankee Stadium.
They are biding their time until Shane Victorino is back creating better scoring opportunities and manufacturing runs.
They are waiting for Will Middlebrooks to return so he can get some momentum to his offense and perhaps become the righthanded power bat they need in the middle of the order to go along with Mike Napoli.
When they have won, the recipe of a three-run homer and excellent starting pitching has seemed to work best. It’s a cure for whatever ails a team.
In eight of the first 11 games, Boston starters — including Jon Lester Friday night — have allowed two or fewer earned runs.
Because the offense hasn’t hit enough three-run homers the Red Sox are only 4-4 in those games, but if you keep those results for a full season, you’ll win your fair share.
Sizemore and A.J. Pierzynski have been a good pickups. Mujica (who showed a tricky split-fingered pitch) earned the save Friday night while Uehara was resting.
“It just adds depth to the back of your bullpen,” Lester said of Mujica. “Obviously he’s been really good for a long time at what he’s done in the back end of the bullpen. When Koji needs a day, you know you’ve got that. That’s an extra bullet in our gun and it was big for him tonight to step up and do that.”
If Uehara is OK, would you still rather be the Red Sox right now after 11 games, than any of the other team in the AL East? The answer for me is still yes.
For how long is anyone’s guess, and a lot depends on how significant, if at all, Uehara’s injury is.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.