BOSTON Facing five Yankees batters on Tuesday night, Junichi Tazawa struck out three, stretching his streak of scoreless and hitless innings to eight over his last five outings. He has given up two runs in his last 12 games, spanning 14 13 innings.The right-hander has appeared in 27 games over three stints with the Red Sox this season, shuttling from Triple-A Pawtucket. In 35 innings, he has allowed six earned runs on 34 hits and five walks with 35 strikeouts, posting a record of 0-1 with a 1.54 ERA. He has held opponents scoreless in 21 of his 27 appearances. In 25 games with Pawtucket, he was 3-2 with four saves and a 2.55 ERA.After Tommy John surgery in April 2010, Tazawa missed all of that season, before being activated from the disabled list on June 27, 2011. Even at the beginning of this season, manager Bobby Valentine said that Tazawa was dealing with the side effects of the surgery.At the beginning of the season, in spring training he was still cautious with his arm, Valentine said. He couldnt throw his breaking ball nor his fastball with the kind of effort that he wanted. He was always holding back five or 10 percent, according to him. Now hes not holding back. Hes throwing 96, or 97, and he has impeccable control and three pitches. I think moving forward, I think hes going to be a very good pitcher on a championship team.Tazawa was originally pegged as a starter, making 20 starts between Double A and Triple A in 2009. Since his surgery, though, he has made just eight starts, all last season. He has not made a major league start since 2009, when he made four.He came to spring training as a possible starter this year and struggled with the windup, and all that stuff, Valentines said. Theres a lot of value in good relief pitching that doesnt always show up on balance sheets or whatever.I think he likes being a good pitcher, likes being healthy. We can use him a lot.Tazawa, who turned 26 in June, signed with the Sox as an international free agent from Japan in December, 2008, after a four-year amateur career in the Japan Industrial League.He was unique, said Valentine, who managed in Japan during that time. He was the case study. It caused quite an uproar. When I was there he was going to be my number one draft choice there. And instead, out of the industrial league, an amateur industrial league, he signed a professional contract here. I think the first one to ever do it. And so he is unique.Valentine sees an important role on the Sox staff for a fully healthy Tazawa.I couldn't imagine him not being on our team and being an integral part, Valentine said.
Among the reactions to the news that Bobby Valentine was possibly being considered to be the US amassador to Japan in President Donald Trump’s administration was this beauty from Kevin Youkilis.
Looks like I won't be allowed to visit Japan for the next 4 years. 😂😂😂 https://t.co/BCGnvpFWLh— Kevin Youkilis (@KYouk_2036) December 9, 2016
Valentine famously called out Youkilis early in his stormy tenure as Red Sox manager in 2012. Remember? "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason," Bobby V said of Youk at the time.
The Red Sox traded Youkilis to the White Sox for two not-future Hall of Famers, outfielder Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart, later that season.
Youkilis, now Tom Brady’s brother-in-law by the way, had a 21-game stint playing in Japan in 2014 before retiring from baseball.
US ambassador to Japan?
Bobby Valentine is on the short list for that position in President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a WEEI.com report.
The former Red Sox manager (fired after a 69-93 season and last-place finish in 2012), and ex-New York Mets and Texas Rangers, skipper, also managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons.
When asked by the New York Daily News if he's being considered for the post, Valentine responded: "I haven't been contacted by anyone on Trump's team."
Would he be interested?
"I don't like to deal in hypotheticals," Valentine told the Daily News.
Valentine, 66, has known the President-elect and Trump's brother Bob since the 1980s, is close to others on Trump’s transition team and has had preliminary discussions about the ambassador position, sources told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.
Valentine, currently the athletic director of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., is also friendly with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, like Valentine, attended the University of Southern California.