Uehara walks a batter, Earth still spinning

Uehara walks a batter, Earth still spinning
April 19, 2014, 8:45 pm
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(USA Today Sport Images)

BOSTON -- Something strange happened in the top of the ninth inning at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon.

"Sandstorm" blared over the park's public address speakers. Koji Uehara trotted in from the Red Sox bullpen. And, then, oddity of oddities, he walked Orioles catcher Matt Wieters.

Including the 2013 postseason, it was Uehara's first issued base on balls in 43.2 innings. It's been over eight months (August 3) since he last gave a free pass.

Back then, a few of last season's world-famous World Series champion beards were little more than stubble.

"It doesn't happen often," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

Of course, Uehara recovered quickly, striking out the side to end the game and earn his fourth save of the season.

The relief outing was Uehara's second since not pitching for over a week after feeling some shoulder stiffness while the Red Sox were in New York last weekend. He notched his third save of the season in a 3-1 win over the White Sox on Thursday.
 
While still incredibly sharp despite some time off and whatever shoulder issues he has dealt with, it will be difficult for Uehara -- if not impossible -- for him to live up to the standard he set last season.

He threw 19 pitches on Saturday, a number he's reached twice this season in seven outings. He hit the 19-pitch mark just 15 times in 73 appearances last season.

"I think he's just up in the zone more than he normally is for him," David Ross said of Uehara. "When you're that good, it's kind of getting picky. But he's really good and he got us the save. The more he gets out there, the more comfortable he'll be."