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.
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