By Maureen Mullen
BOSTON Hideki Okajima was one of the Red Sox' last cuts, being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket on March 31. The veteran left-hander wasn't happy with the move, and said he might have opted to sign elsewhere -- he was a free agent last offseason -- had he known he'd be starting the season in the minor leagues.
But the demotion didn't last long. On Monday morning he was recalled by the Sox just before their 11 a.m. game against the Blue Jays as a replacement for Felix Doubront, who was sent back to the PawSox.
Im happy, but I didnt expect to be up this early, Okajima said. Im very happy.
Im very grateful to manager Terry Francona and the rest of the club.
In five games with the PawSox, spanning 5 23 innings, Okajima did not allow a
run, giving up just two hits, with no walks and five strikeouts.
We optioned him out but instead of going and poutingand feeling sorry for himself he threw the ball pretty well, got a lotof people out," said Francona.
Although he wasnt given any specific instructions, Okajima said one of the things he worked on while with the PawSox was his cutter, which could help him get right handed hitters out. Last season, righties hit him for a .340 average (34-for-100) with four home runs,10 walks, and 17 strikeouts, a .396 on-base percentage, and .540 slugging.
My cutter against righties worked as I expected while I was practicing on it in Pawtucket, Okajima said. So I believe thats a pitch that I can use up here.
Being able to get lefties out is a given in my position. But also being able to get righties is also important especially since I got hit by them last season. So that was an area that I need to prove to the team and myself that I can continue doing.
Okajima flew with the team to Oakland after the 9-1 victory for the beginning of a OaklandSeattleBaltimore road trip.
It seemed likea logical move to make," said Francona. And rather than wait until we get back fromtheir upcoming road trip,well do it today where Oki can get with us. And Doubront doesnt haveto fly back and miss a day doing that.
Sending Okajima to Pawtucket to start the season was a difficult decision,
I dont really enjoy telling anybody, he said. The last weeks hard because theres a lot of guys, if they make it that far they know they have a chance to make the club and Okis a guy thats been on an All-Star team."
Making it worse was the language barrier, since Okajima speaks little to no English.
"Its a little different when you're doing it through an interpreter," said Francona. "In a normal conversation with these guys, I mean, they can tell a lot of how I feel or how general manager Theo Epstein feels by the tone of our voice, a lot of things, and thats difficult like with Oki because you're relying on the translators . . . Its hard. The message isnt fun, anyway and the language difficulties make it worse."
Doubront will move into the PawSox starting rotation. He missed most of spring training with tightness in his left elbow and started the season on the disabled list before being activated April 8. In three games with the Sox, spanning 2 23 innings, he allowed four earned runs on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts, posting a 6.75 ERA.
When we activated Doubront . . . we fully well knew that he wasnt in midseason form, Francona said. Saying that, we love this kid.
"Theres actually a couple of reasons for sending Doubront to Pawtucket. One, were only carrying one lefty . . . and Doubront's certainly not a guy we want to get up and down a lot. Thats not going to work. The other side of that is we can let him go get stretched out as a starter in case for some obvious depth reasons.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen