fb-pixel Skip to main content

Koji Uehara takes an important step in camp

Koji Uehara will move from the closer role to the eighth inning this season.
Koji Uehara will move from the closer role to the eighth inning this season.patrick semansky/ap

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox played the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night. Righthander Rick Porcello and a few of the regulars took the short ride down Daniels Parkway to Hammond Stadium.

But the most important event of the day finished hours before.

For the first time since a line drive broke his right wrist in August, Koji Uehara took the mound and faced hitters. He threw 44 pitches to David Murphy and an assortment of minor league players during the morning at Fenway South.

Bullpen coach Dana LeVangie walked away with a big smile.

“He was the same Koji, same pitches and same movement. It was great to see,” LeVangie said.

Advertisement



Manager John Farrell also came away impressed. He was looking to make sure Uehara had full range of motion with his wrist and was able to throw all of his pitches.

“He was free and easy, the life to his fastball was what we had hoped to see at this point in time in camp,” the manager said. “It was a good day.”

Uehara, 40, wants to throw one more session of live batting practice, then pitch on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton. He said five or six outings in spring training would be sufficient to prepare him for the season.

The trade for Craig Kimbrel pushed Uehara into the eighth inning after spending the last three seasons as a closer. His return to health is crucial for the Sox given the other high-caliber bullpens in the American League East.

A bullpen of Kimbrel, Uehara, Carson Smith, and Junichi Tazawa should give the Red Sox a decided edge late in games.

“I felt fine, great,” Uehara said via translator C.J. Matsumoto. “I think it was what it was. I did what I expected to do.”

Advertisement



Uehara threw his fastball and split-finger fastball along with a few sliders. He located his pitches up and down and gave up only a few hard-hit balls.

“He looked like he always does, sneaky fast and he spotted his pitches,” said Murphy, who signed with the Red Sox on Monday and was getting some extra swings in. “He had that late movement.”

Throwing to minor league catcher Jake Romanski, Uehara worked at a quick pace and showed no signs of any discomfort with his wrist. He was injured on Aug. 7 when a line drive off the bat of Detroit’s Ian Kinsler hit Uehara flush.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, he was able to pick the ball up and throw to first to end the game. X-rays a day later showed a fracture.

Uehara is 12-10 with a 1.86 earned run average and 72 saves in 180 appearances for the Sox over the last three seasons.

“I’m ready to go,” Uehara said. “The wrist is fine.”

Carlos Marmol also threw his first round of live batting practice and Farrell was eager to see that as well.

Marmol represents a lottery ticket for the Red Sox, a low-cost shot at what could be big success.

Marmol, 33, last pitched in the majors in 2014 and was hit hard. The Sox signed him to a minor league contract last month with a plan to change his delivery. The results so far are positive.

Marmol has returned to the more upright, over-the-top delivery he used during his most successful seasons with the Chicago Cubs. He threw well in the bullpen on Monday and took that into the batting practice session.

Advertisement



“It’s making progress, yes. The sweep to his slider, the more depth to his sinker,” Farrell said. “That’s becoming more evident with each outing, with each throwing session.

“This is an interesting project, that’s the best way that I can describe it. There’s pedigree, there’s arm strength. We just have to get back to the action that he’s had previous.”

Marmol feels it’s going to work.

“My body has taken to it. It’s going to work,” he said. “I feel very comfortable. This is how I felt in the past when I had my best years.”

Marmol is scheduled to pitch in Saturday’s scrimmage game at Fenway South.


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.