Koji Uehara admits “physical” issue was behind struggles late last season

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Red Sox closer Koji Uehara struggled mightily down the stretch last season and he finally acknowledged to reporters today that it was injury-related. Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald has the details:

“It was more physical,” Uehara said after arriving in Red Sox camp Monday, four days before the mandatory reporting date for pitchers and catchers. “I didn’t talk about it at that time, but I think I’m over it.”

Uehara wouldn’t elaborate — “I’m not getting into specifics,” he said through translator C.J. Matsumoto — except to say the issue “wasn’t fatigue” from the Red Sox’ long run to the World Series in 2013. General manager Ben Cherington noted Uehara dealt with a “little lower back issue” in August that cleared up by the end of the year.

Uehara was in typical fantastic form for most of the year, posting a 1.27 ERA over 55 appearances through August 15, but he gave up 10 runs on 14 hits (including four home runs), one walk, and one hit batsman in 4 2/3 innings in a span of six appearances from August 16-September 4. He finished the year with three scoreless appearances, but the Red Sox used him sparingly in September.

The uncharacteristic rough patch obviously didn’t scare off the Red Sox, as Uehara was brought back on a two-year, $18 million contract at the start of the offseason. He’s set to serve as Boston’s closer again in his age-40 season.