BOSTON - When the Red Sox signed veteran righthander Edward Mujica last winter, they had reason to believe they were brining in a trusted, tested late-inning reliever, one whom they could count on to consistently throw strikes.
To date, however, that hasn't been the case.
Mujica got the ball in the top of the ninth Tuesday with the Red Sox looking to close out the Tampa Bay Rays. Since they led by five, it wasn't a save situation and thus, no need to bring in closer Koji Uehara.
But that's not how it turned out.
Mujica gave up a leadoff doubler to James Loney, a walk to Wil Myers, and after a groundout and a throwing error by Xander Bogaerts resulted in two runs scoring, the Rays had the potential tying run in the on-deck circle.
Mujica got one more out on a flyout, but John Farrell had seen enough.
Enter Uehara, exit Mujica.
It took Uehara exactly three pitches to get a game-ending strikeout of Ben Zobrist to clean up the mess left by Mujica, but the numbers are still troubling.
Mujica has appeared in 10 games and had precious few incident-free outings, with an ERA of 10. Even more alarming is the fact that he's walked four in nine innings, after walking just five in 64 2/3 innings a year ago with the St. Louis Cardinals.
"He was in a more clearly defined role last year,'' said Farrell, "so there was more frequency of use. He got on a little bit of a roll last year and carried it throughout nearly 40 saves last year.
"It has been command (that's been an issue this year) within the strike zone, not just base on balls. It was evident tonight, with the first pitch to Loney - he trying to go down and away and he pulls it across the plate for a double. And we've seen it a few times, where there's been some mislocation. He's starting to gain some arm strength now that we're (almost) through the first month, and increased velocity.
"But still, to me it's more infrequency of use to this point.''