Despite early struggles on no rest, veteran reliever Koji Uehara should be viewed as a valuable member of the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen, not a liability.
Prior to his scoreless outings on both May 3 and May 4, Chicago Cubs right-hander Koji Uehara showed signs of weakness when used in back-to-back games. Twice in April, he was roughed up by opponents, leaving some to question his durability at age 42.
On April 15, the Japan native tossed a scoreless frame against the Pirates, striking out one. The next day, Joe Maddon went to Uehara again only to get a drastically different result. Failing to record an out, the right-hander issued a pair of walks and two hits – culminating in a pair of runs.
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Two weeks later, the Cubs tried again. On day one, Uehara turned in a perfect frame on three days rest. But the next day at Fenway, the former ALCS MVP again failed to record a single out, allowing three runs to score.
This week, however, Uehara finally put up back-to-back scoreless outings. He played a pivotal role in extending the game Thursday, allowing Chicago to walk-off in 13 innings at Wrigley.
Studying a larger body of work
It’s May 5. Hardly far enough along in a season to draw meaningful conclusions for a reliever. So, with that in mind, lets look at Uehara’s big league career and how rest as affected his performance.
When you look at the numbers, two things pop out: he excels with either no rest or extra rest. With only a day or two off, his performance tails off – but even then, only mildly.
The simple truth is this. Koji Uehara has proven himself time and time again during his big league career. A few stumbles early this year is hardly enough to warrant the chastising from Cubs fans. Yet, we all hear it.
Chicago features one of the best relief corps in the entire league. Sure, they hit speed bumps from time-to-time, but Uehara forms an integral bridge to the likes of closer Wade Davis. With the former Royals hurler nailing things down in the ninth, the back of ballgames has never looked more secure.
No, he’s not a young kid anymore. But there’s no reason to believe that Koji Uehara’s two misfires in April are anything other than just that – misfires. He’s shown his worth to this team and, come playoff time, will be the bridge the Cubs need to win.