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Koji Uehara was mostly unhittable for Orioles, but he’s been a mess for Rangers

Oct 14, 2011, 12:19 PM EST

Koji Uehara Getty Images

Texas bulked up its bullpen at the trade deadline, acquiring Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, and Mike Gonzalez to go alongside Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando, and Darren Oliver in what’s now arguably the best, deepest group of relievers in baseball.

However, after dominating with the Orioles for the past one-and-a-half seasons Uehara has been a mess with the Rangers, losing Ron Washington’s confidence and then struggling when asked to get outs in low-leverage situations.

Uehara was fantastic in Baltimore, throwing 91 innings with a 2.27 ERA and ridiculous 117/13 K/BB ratio after moving from the rotation to the bullpen in 2010, but he served up five homers in 18 regular season innings following a July 30 trade to Texas and has allowed a homer in each of his three postseason outings.

“Obviously, Washington gave me three chances to prove myself, but I haven’t been able to produce,” Uehara told Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas. “I feel badly. I’m struggling right now.”

Part of why I liked the Rangers’ move to pick up Uehara from the Orioles is that he’s signed through next season at a reasonable $4 million salary. That doesn’t sound like such a great thing given his sudden inability to keep the ball in the ballpark and my guess is Uehara won’t get many more chances to turn things around in the playoffs, but he was one of the most effective relievers in baseball for nearly two seasons and he’ll come in handy again next year, particularly if Feliz moves into the rotation.

  1. dowhatifeellike - Oct 14, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    He’s injury-prone and wilts in the heat. I don’t think anyone in Texas understands how to manage him. It took a year for the O’s to figure it out: he sits on 90+ degree days and he gets one inning twice per week. Unfortunately for the O’s twice a week was about the rate at which they needed a hold, so that fit perfectly.

    • randomdigits - Oct 14, 2011 at 12:59 PM

      You are exaggerating. Koji had plenty of issues with heat and/or humidity when starting in Baltimore but not much since moving to the pen.

      This is the most able to pitch that Koji has been in years, I think he has just hit the wall hard. No reason to expect him to not be fine come spring training. That being said if the Rangers advance I think Koji should have one of his patented hamstring pulls and the Rangers should replace him on the roster.

  2. seanmk - Oct 14, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Koji Uehara is a pitcher that pitches up in the zone with a 88 mph fastball. he doesn’t walk anyone and he doesn’t get groundballs at a great rate because of pitching up in the zone. he’s going to be a “homer prone” pitcher because he gives up a lot of fly balls and he pitches in a not so friendly fly ball environment. if he doesn’t strike a guy out he’s going to eventually have problems and they are coming all at once.

  3. Kyle - Oct 14, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    Bummer. A man with facial hair like that deserves to succeed.

  4. Bryz - Oct 14, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    Uehara was still unhittable (.200 BABIP and 11.5 K/9 with the Rangers) and still had excellent control (0.5 BB/9). He’s just been allowing too many home runs, which could be explained by Ameriquest Field, except for the fact that Camden Yards isn’t a pitcher’s park, either.

    I’m going to put my money on Uehara being a dominant reliever again next season.

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