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.

Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.

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