MIAMI — Red Sox closer Koji Uehara joked Friday night that he would pitch again in a few days despite being struck on the right wrist by a line drive. Instead, his season is over.
Uehara has a non-displaced distal radius fracture and will be placed on the disabled list. He is expected to make a full recovery, according to the Red Sox.
The radius is a bone in the forearm, with the distal end closest to the wrist. Such fractures are common, but the circumstances for Uehara were anything but.
With the Red Sox leading the Detroit Tigers, 7-2, in the ninth inning, Justin Masterson loaded the bases with one out, and Uehara was put into the game.
He struck out Jose Iglesias before Ian Kinsler lined a ball up the middle. The ball hit Uehara on his wrist but he was still able to recover and make the throw to first base to end the game. It was his 25th save.
X-rays taken at Comerica Park approximately 10 minutes later were negative, and Uehara was in good spirits. But when his pain persisted, Uehara was sent back to Boston on Sunday.
Dr. Matthew Leibman, a specialist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, diagnosed the fracture.
Uehara, via Twitter, thanked fans who were worried about him and said he would work hard to return.
Uehara was having another outstanding season, posting a 2.23 earned run average and 0.917 WHIP through 43 appearances.
In his last 17 games, Uehara allowed one run over 17⅓ innings and struck out 21. Opponents were 7 of 60 (.117) against him.
Uehara, 40, was signed to a two-year, $18 million deal last October. He has a 1.86 ERA and 72 saves in three seasons with the Red Sox. In 179 innings, Uehara has struck out 228 and walked only 26.
On Sunday, Sox manager John Farrell indicated that newly acquired Jean Machi would work as the closer in Uehara’s absence. Machi has only three career saves, one with the Sox since being claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants.
Junichi Tazawa is another possibility but the Red Sox seem inclined to continue using him as a set-up man.
The Red Sox have two bullpen spots open, as Masterson was designated for assignment on Sunday. Moves will be made before Tuesday’s game against the Miami Marlins.
With Uehara going on the disabled list, the Red Sox could recall righthander Ryan Cook from Triple A Pawtucket. He was obtained from Oakland July 31 and Farrell has said the Sox want to get him on the roster again quickly.
Other relievers on the 40-man roster include righthander Jonathan Aro, lefthander Tommy Layne, and righthander Noe Ramirez.
A third roster move will be needed to accommodate the return of outfielder Mookie Betts from the disabled list.
The loss of Uehara could seem to open the door to the idea of trying righthander Joe Kelly as a closer.
Kelly has pitched poorly as a starter all season but worked as a closer in college and has the fastball velocity that suggests he would be effective in that role.
But the last-place Red Sox lack depth beyond the five starters currently in the rotation. That could preclude Kelly from going to the bullpen.