Koji Uehara AP

Koji Uehara admits feeling fatigued as of late


BOSTON — The book on Koji Uehara is out.

With the equivalent of a full season as Red Sox closer under his belt, hitters know he plans to retire them with fastballs and splitters. And they know he’s going to throw strikes.

Lots of strikes.

It came as no surprise then that the Cubs — a team that hasn’t seen Uehara in a Red Sox uniform before Tuesday — were aggressive in their approach in the top of the ninth inning at Fenway Park.

In a game tied at one, Anthony Rizzo jumped on the first pitch he saw — a splitter — and singled. Cleanup man Starline Castro saw five pitches before doubling on a fastball that caught a chunk of the plate. Luis Valbuena knocked in the game-winning run seven pitches later on a splitter he lifted to right field for a sacrifice fly.

After the loss, Uehara told reporters that he’s feeling “a little bit of fatigue.” He didn’t hint any any soreness, however, and didn’t blame his night on overuse.

“I probably need to get younger,” he explained through team interpreter C.J. Matsumoto.

Kidding aside, Uehara did admit that the command of his splitter isn’t where he would like it. Lately, that has translated into a handful of runs allowed.

Since a 2-1 win in Minnesota on June 18, Uehara has thrown seven innings, allowing four runs and seven hits.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said that when Uehara has run into trouble it has been against teams that were aggressive, as the Cubs were Tuesday.

“A number of early swings,” Farrell said. “When he’s giving up some base hits, it’s been on first or second pitch where he’s trying to get a strike. It’s not the true put-away split.

“That was the case with Rizzo tonight. I thought Castro laid off some pretty good splits to get deep in that count and then gets one up in the strike zone for the double. It’s been more in the early counts where we’ve seen some of the damage take place.”

It’s been unusual for Uehara to run into any trouble so his posting a 5.14 ERA in eight outings has been a strange sight. But his teammates aren’t concerned. 

Clay Buchholz — Tuesday’s starter for the Sox, who gave up one run in 6.1 innings — said that everyone on the team still takes a deep breath every time they see Uehara make his way in from the bullpen.

“Can’t go out and not give up a run every time out,” Buchholz said. “It’s impossible. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best closer-slash-reliever in the game . . . Things happen. This game’s hard. Regardless of if you throw 120 mph somebody’s gonna get a hit off it and score a run.”

Catcher AJ Pierzynski had his closer’s back as well.

“Everyone knows Koji throws fastball and split pretty much, so he makes a good pitch he gets guys out,” he said. “It’s not like he’s been getting crushed all over the yard. He got a bunch of saves on the road trip. Threw the ball fine, like I said. Rizzo hit a good pitch. Castro hit a pretty good pitch, and then Valbuena had a good at-bat and hit one just far enough. I mean, I don’t know what you guys want.” 

Rightly or wrongly, these are the standards Uehara has set for himself. The good news for the Red Sox is that he doesn’t seem too far out of whack. He’s just a couple of weeks removed from polishing off a streak of 21 consecutive scoreless innings.

And his plan for getting back into a groove, like his approach on the mound, was remarkably simple as he explained it.

“Just get some sleep . . . eat well,” he said. “I think it comes down to the basic stuff.” 

Cavaliers will move ring ceremony to avoid conflict with World Series start

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 11: A general exterior image of the Quicken Loans arena which is next door to Progressive Field where the Chicago White Sox will take on the Cleveland Indians on July 11, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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In a show of good sportsmanship, the Cleveland Cavaliers have moved their championship ring ceremony start time back to 7 PM EDT to avoid conflicting with the start of the World Series opener on Tuesday. The Indians are set to host Game 1 at Progressive Field on October 25, while the Cavs will open the 2016-17 NBA season against the New York Knicks at the nearby Quicken Loans Arena, preceded by a ceremony recognizing their first franchise title.

In the event that the Indians clinch a World Series title, it’ll be the first time Cleveland has seen two championships in the same calendar year since 1948, when the Indians’ last Series title came on the back of the Cleveland Browns’ All-American Football Conference championship against the Buffalo Bills. The same was true for the Dodgers in 1988, when their World Series win against the Athletics coincided with the Los Angeles Lakers’ 11th championship, while Chicago has yet to see a multi-title year among their NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB franchises.

Regardless of the Series’ outcome, Cleveland fans will get the chance to revel in one long-awaited championship win on Tuesday before watching the beginning of a nail-biting conclusion to another long-awaited playoff run. The Cavaliers are scheduled for 7 PM EDT on October 25, while the Indians will take the field at 8 PM EDT.

Indians could benefit from long rest before the World Series

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 09: Danny Salazar #31 of the Cleveland Indians delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on September 9, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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If any team can turn a six-day rest period into an advantage, it’s the Indians. The club polished off their pennant race with another injured starter and an overtaxed bullpen, as Trevor Bauer exited in Game 3 of the ALCS with a laceration on his right pinky finger, leaving the bullpen to shoulder 16 innings through the last three games of the series. On Friday, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported that injured starter Danny Salazar could rejoin the rotation in the World Series, though he’ll need at least one more simulated game before Terry Francona determines whether or not he’s fit to return for the team’s last postseason push.

Bauer, who has been under the close watch of hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, told the press that he feels confident that he’ll be ready for a World Series start when the final showdown commences on Tuesday. Keeping the wound bandaged is not an option during games, and Bauer said that Dr. Graham decided against additional stitches to keep the laceration from re-opening. Instead, they’re banking on extra days of rest to heal the cut naturally. Should Francona pencil the right-hander into the lineup for Game 3 or 4, he’ll have had 10-11 days to rest his finger between starts — just a hair under the seven games Bauer said he was prepared to pitch.

Salazar, too, has been preparing for a World Series showdown. He’s scheduled to pitch three innings of a simulated game this weekend, and if it goes well, it could land him a spot in the starting rotation alongside Bauer, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, and newcomer Ryan Merritt. Salazar has been sidelined since September 9 with a right forearm strain, and even after undergoing a rigorous throwing program over the last several weeks, any kind of comeback is expected to be curbed by a strict innings limit. Francona has been understandably tight-lipped about his World Series roster, but he hasn’t yet nixed the idea of utilizing Salazar out of the rotation, provided the right-hander remains healthy for another week or so.

The Indians have had to remain flexible throughout their seven-game playoff run after weathering injuries to Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, pushing their rotation through several games on short rest and relying heavily on Andrew Miller and Cody Allen‘s one-two punch in the ‘pen to clinch more than a few postseason victories. While history doesn’t always favor the first team to secure their league’s pennant race, an extra week of rest should only benefit Cleveland’s beleaguered pitching staff.