Found May 22, 2013 on isportsweb.com:
PLAYERS: Koji Uehara
TEAMS: Boston Red Sox

On May 19th, on the road against the Twins, Sox set-up man Koji Uehara was in the middle of a hellish 8th:  a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Wilkin Ramirez, a walk to light-light-hitting shortstop Pedro Florimon, and a single to Jamey Carroll.  With two-down and the bases loaded, the Sox up 3-1, Koji faced Joe Mauer, one of the few bright spots on a struggling Twins lineup. Koji reared back: Ball, Foul, Foul, Ball. Then one of the pitches Sox fans have come to love: an 88mph 2-seamer up and away, catching Mauer swinging. Inning over. What came next is what has made Koji Uehara possibly the most beloved reliever in my memory as a Sox fan. He pounded his fist joyfully into his glove, ran towards catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, patted his chest as if to say “My bad” with a smile on his face. And then he stopped Salty halfway to the dugout and hugged him. Not a pat on the back. Not a bump on the fist. A hug. Square shoulders, face to face, hug, with a thankful whisper in the ear to boot. Then Koji did what every Sox fan relishes watching: skipping through the crowded dugout, making sure he high-fives every single player there, waiting at the entrance to congratulate the defensive players arriving behind him. ——————————————— The Major League Baseball reliever is a fickle thing. He is oft-criticized and rarely commended, the equivalent to the goalie in soccer or the kicker in football. You are supposed to be automatic, to finish what the rest of your team has started. When you fail, the fan’s reaction is always disbelief, “This wasn’t supposed to happen.” All of this is to say is you have to be something of a lunatic to be a major-league reliever, and the Red Sox bullpen of recent years has had their fair share . In one of the most demanding cities to be a sports professional (or so Carl Crawford says), with a rabid fan base and hyper-critical press, the Red Sox are a tough team to fail on, and not every reliever, no matter how sparkly their resume, has been up to the task. Former All-Stars like Eric Gagne (whose name still draws curses from my father) or Bobby Jenks all bottomed out here. Some pitchers had one great season only to completely fall apart the next, like Hideki Okajima or (still hoping not) Daniel Bard. Some were absolutely crazy even when they stopped being productive, like Julian Tavarez or Alfred Aceves. The most successful Red Sox reliever of the last decade was Jonathan Papelbon, he of the John-Lithgow-if-he-was-40-years-younger-and-was-a-serial-killer stare. Which is why this year’s pen is such a breath of fresh air. Alex Wilson, the congenial 26-year-old rookie, somehow has a 1.46 ERA. Andrew Miller, the 6-7 southpaw, is finally starting to come around, even drawing some praise from John Farrell. Junichi Tazawa, like last year, has been dynamite in the 7th, and will be just as good when he moves back there in the coming weeks. Andrew Bailey is proving this year that the Bailey-Reddick trade wasn’t as much of a disaster as it looked last season, an All-Star closer if he can stay healthy. And there’s more to come: Craig Breslow has just come back from injury, Franklin Morales is rehabbing in the minors, and maybe, just maybe, Daniel Bard can figure it all out and thrive in low-pressure situations to get his confidence back. And of course there’s Koji. The 38-year-old journeyman that acts after every hold, every perfect inning, like you imagine a rookie feels but is too self-conscious to exhibit. His rituals (the pumping of the fist, the constant high-fiving) are a joy to watch. Of course, all of this would be meaningless if he wasn’t pitching well. The good news is, he is, the most sure thing in a bullpen that’s becoming increasingly reliable. On April 21st, when he gave up his first earned run of the season, a solo shot to Royals’ DH Billy Butler, I was horrified. One female patron of the bar I was watching the game in gasped audibly. “What??” This was Koji, who had been nothing but perfect thus far. Luckily, since then, he’s still been terrific: all told, 17 and 2/3 innings, 14 hits, 4 ER (all homers), 4 walks, AND 26 STRIKEOUTS. To be clear, Koji Uehara is no flamethrower. He rarely crosses the 90mph line. He pounds the strike zone over and over, with a jumpy splitter and what Gerry Fraley of the Dallas News called “a magic fastball”; incredibly deceptive, especially against right-handed hitters. And of course, he’s insanely likable, something you could never really say about the river-dancing madman Papelbon, and certainly could not and will not ever say about Aceves. But that’s been the best part of the 2013 Boston Red Sox. As even my Yankee fan friends have agreed, this is the most likable Red Sox team since “The Idiots” of 2004. Gone is Bobby Valentine. Gone are apparent cancers Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez. Gone is tragic figure Carl Crawford. The faces of the franchise are rightly David Ortiz, whose f-bomb and bat have electrified a troubled city, and Dustin Pedroia, 3rd in the AL in batting average and still a fantastic glove. Shane Victorino is easily the happiest/smiliest man in all of baseball. The five-spot slugger, Mike Napoli, rubs himself with baby oil to stay warm every game, and has been gifted the name “Hacksaw”. Stephen Drew is doing his best to make us forget he’s related to J.D. Daniel Nava has gone from forgotten fourth outfielder to folk hero. And I don’t care how bad Jonny Gomes’ batting average is (.190 if you’re wondering) I still love how hard he runs, and his thunderous high five with Nava after the “Boston, This Is For You” home run. I mean even John Lackey’s become pretty tolerable!! So far, though, the iconic image of this season for me as a fan has been Koji Uehara hugging his catcher after getting out of a jam. For a sport dominated by numbers and individual effort, this year’s Red Sox are the closest I’ve ever seen to acting like a team, and that’s pretty wonderful. Of course, if the Sox fall apart by mid-July, this will seem a lot less adorable. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Koji Uehara high fives Shane Victorino in the face

During Wednesday night's Red Sox-White Sox game, Boston pitcher Koji Uehara was AMPED after pitching a 1-2-3 eighth inning that included a pair of strikeouts. He started dishing out high fives to his teammates. Mike Napoli? You get a double. Dustin Pedroia? You get one with the glove. First base coach Arnie Beyeler? You'll get one too. Will Middlebrooks? You'...

Red Sox reliever smacks teammate during excessive high-five-a-palooza

Boston Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara is pumped up after pitching a strong 8th inning, and he’s got plenty of high-fives to dole out in the dugout, so you better be ready. Teammate Shane Victorino was not ready…

Koji Uehara to Shane Victorino: “What did the five fingers say to the face?” (via...

Koji Uehara to Shane Victorino: “What did the five fingers say to the face?” (via Deadspin)

Red Sox rumors: Jacoby Ellsbury hasn't discussed extension

The 2013 campaign is huge for Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Unfortunately for the former MVP candidate, it hasn't gone so well so far. There has been talk of whether or not the Red Sox should ink the center fielder to a long-term deal, but as of yet sides haven't discussed a contract extension, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. After coming off a tough...

Red Sox Riding Stellar Pitching

Editor's Note: CLNS Radio welcomes guest columnist Kevin Doyle. Kevin is an award-winning Editor/Writer with over 37 years of experience, including as the chief feature/profile writer for Hockey Night in Boston since 1990. He can be followed on Twitter @kdoyle40.   The Boston Red Sox have been a pleasant surprise this season, their 28-19 record wholly unanticipated but altogether...

Solid pitching and timely hitting help Red Sox during 6-3 roadtrip

In their longest roadtrip until the beginning of July, the Boston Red Sox proved once again why they are one of the best teams away from Fenway Park this season. During the nine game trip, the Red Sox went 6-3 while winning two of out three series including taking two of three in Tampa Bay and a weekend sweep of the Minnesota Twins. This past series with Chicago White Sox didn...

Jacoby Ellsbury May Be Dropped Lower in Red Sox Lineup

Jacoby Ellsbury, near MVP in 2011 and owner of an injury plagued campaign in 2012, may be getting dropped out of the leadoff spot shortly in the Red Sox lineup. Manager, John Farrell, indicated Ellsbury may lose claim of being the leadoff hitter if he didn’t turn around his rough start to 2013, which won’t help negotiations in Free Agency as Ellsbury’s contract is set to expire...

Jose Iglesias Could Be Utility Option for Red Sox Later This Season, But Must Improve Offensively (Video)

The Red Sox were arguably the best fielding team in baseball through April, but the Boston gloves have stiffened since. The Sox entered Wednesday night ranked ninth in the American League in fielding percentage (.985), errors (25) and double plays turned (39), raising the question of what manager John Farrell can do to reverse this trend. Jose Iglesias‘ name has come up as someone...

Here is Red Sox Announcer & Former Player Jerry Remy In 1984 Playgirl

Baseball Prospectus via Deadspin: But there is another forgotten relic from baseball’s sexual past. Perhaps lost amidst the frenzy of cocaine, the advent of the CD player, and the soulful tunes of After the Fire, during the early 1980s Playgirl magazine convinced a number of baseball stars to pose seductively within their pages. A.B. I know Playgirl was trying to paint Remy as...

Jacoby Ellsbury’s Solid Effort Against White Sox Doesn’t Silence Leadoff Debate, But It Turns Volume Down a Bit

One game doesn’t make a season, and in most cases, one game doesn’t turn a season around. When you’re facing the pressure that Jacoby Ellsbury is facing, though, you take what you can get. Ellsbury went 2-for-3 with two singles, two walks and a run scored in the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the White Sox on Wednesday. It was Ellsbury’s first multi-hit game since May 4, and the...

Afternoon Red Sox Delight - 5/23

After going 6-3 on the nine-game road trip, the Boston Red Sox return home for a six-game homestand. Tonight they'll welcome back their former skipper Terry Francona and his Cleveland Indians in the first game of a four-game set at historic Fenway Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. If you live in the Red Sox television market you can catch the game on NESN. If you...

Clay Buchholz Able to Avoid Two-Out Trouble Early, Giving Red Sox Chance at Holding Off White Sox (Video)

Most of the damage done by the Chicago White Sox against Red Sox pitching this series has come with two outs. In fact, all of it had come with two outs entering Wednesday night’s game. Clay Buchholz has done a good job of avoiding those two-out runs through the early portions of the game, but anything’s possible as the night goes on. For now, NESN Nation’s Dan Duquette is hoping...

Game 46: Red Sox at White Sox - Save us, Felix

Ben Whitehead Contributing Writer Jon Lester had an off night and the Boston Red Sox (27-18) fell in the opening game of their road series against the Chicago White Sox (20-23). Tonight, the Red Sox turn to Felix Doubront (3-1, 6.03 ERA) to try to even the series. The lefty walked six batters in his last start against Tampa Bay and is allowing opponents to hit .307 against him this...

The Big Pitcher, part 1: The Buch stops here

Jim Rogash/Getty Images The following is the first of five in a series focusing on the Red Sox starting pitchers.  Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer Go ahead. Take a hard look at the numbers. Pull out the old fine-tooth comb. Find Clay Buchholz’s fatal flaw this season. We defy you. And by “you”, we mostly mean Blue Jays broadcasters and pitch-doctor detractors...

Bullpen bounces back

It had been almost three weeks since we last saw Andrew Bailey on the mound for the Red Sox. Yesterday in Chicago he hopped off the bullpen bench in the 9th inning to warm up for a save situation, finally! Unfortunately, or not depending on your disposition, the Red Sox tacked on two more runs and the save situation evaporated. Either way, he walked onto the mound in the bottom...
Red Sox News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.