Tazawa falters in closer role

Tazawa falters in closer role
May 11, 2013, 7:45 pm
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BOSTON –  Junichi Tazawa has made just two appearances since becoming the Red Sox de facto closer after both Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan went on the disabled list.
 
In the first outing, on May 8, Tazawa entered in the ninth inning with very little on the line – the Red Sox trailing the Twins by six runs. But Tazawa gave up one run on two hits with a strikeout in the inning.
 
In his outing Saturday against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park, there was more at stake. The Sox had just tied the game in the eighth inning. Manager John Farrell went to his closer for the ninth.
 
But rather than holding the Jays, with the hope the Sox offense could do something in the home half of the inning, Tazawa gave up a lead-off home run to left-handed hitting Adam Lind, a blast to straightaway center on a 2-and-2 slider
 
“The 2-2 pitch, the breaking ball, doesn’t get to the back foot that it was intended to on Lind for the solo home run,” said Farrell.
 
Casey Janssen, the Jays’ closer, came in to face the Sox in the bottom of the inning, and got the job done, despite a lead-off double by Will Middlebrooks. Janssen is now 10-for-10 in save opportunities this season.
 
“In the bottom of the inning, we have a chance with a lead-off double and Janssen tied our left-handers up with some cutters,” Farrell said.
 
Tazawa has given up runs in three of his last six outings. In that stretch, spanning 4 2/3 innings, he has giving up four runs on six hits, including two home runs, with two walks and nine strikeouts, for an ERA of 7.71.
 
In 12 outings prior to that, he had given up just two runs over 11 2/3 innings, with nine hits, a walk, 12 strikeouts, and one home run, for an ERA of 1.54.
 
The difference?
 
“Not stuff,” Farrell said. “He’s been as powerful. He’s had good secondary stuff, with the exception of the 2-2 breaking ball that doesn’t get to the spot. … It’s not been a matter of stuff. Still, location is going to be the key in any situation.”
 
“It was a pitch he didn’t execute and he paid for it,” said catcher David Ross. “That’s a Major League Baseball game … Taz has been doing a really great job for us. He’s a really good pitcher and he’s one of our best. That’s why they chose to put him in the closer role while the guys are out.”
 
How long Tazawa will be in that role has yet to be determined.
 
Bailey threw Saturday afternoon, from about 120 feet on flat ground. He is eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday, but there is no timetable yet. Bailey would need to pitch from a mound before the Red Sox could consider a return, and that is not expected to happen before early next week. The Red Sox have not yet decided if they will send him out on a rehab assignment, or if Bailey could get enough work in simulated games to prepare without needing a rehab assignment.
 
The success of their closer will likely have some impact on that decision.