There will be a lot of roster shuffling between now and Tuesday's All-Star game at Target Field in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, the first notable change comes as a result of the New York Yankees placing starter Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list on Wednesday. While Tanaka heads back to New York for an MRI on his arm, his fellow countryman, Koji Uehera, has been named as his replacement on the AL All-Star roster.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, who will also serve as the AL skipper this season, indicated his closer would be the next man up should the AL need a new pitcher. Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe notes that Uehara was "next on the list," but there's no clarfication whether that was Farrell's call or if he was following a list as voted by players and coaches. Either way, Farrell had to be pleased to inform the man who has flourished as his closer that he's headed to the All-Star game.
After taking over the role for good on June 26, 2013, Uehara went on an incredible tear to finish the season, collecting 21 saves in 23 opportunities. From Aug. 17 until Sept. 17, Uehara nearly made history, retiring 37 consecutive hitters, only four short of the MLB record set by former Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Jenks. Uehara finished the regular season with a 1.09 ERA in 74 1/3 innings, and then went 1-1 with seven saves and a 3.38 ERA in Boston's postseason run to the World Series championship.
A remarkable run that earned Uehara enough votes to finish seventh in the Cy Young Award balloting
As for Uehara's merits this season, the 39-year-old right-hander has continued his domination, saving 18 games in 19 chances with a 1.30 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings. By the way, he's walked only six batters after walking nine all of last season.
The all-star selection is Uehara's first in MLB, which makes him the sixth oldest first-time All-Star in MLB history. Those who were older: Satchel Paige (46 in 1952), Tim Wakefield (42 in 2009), Arthur Rhodes (40 in 2010), Jamie Moyer (40 in 2003), and Connie Marrero (40 in 1951).
Uehara was an eight-time All-Star in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball for the Yomiuri Giants (1999-2005, 2007), so he's not unfamiliar to the honor itself.
In this case, it's probably a bittersweet selection for Uehara given that Tanaka's injury ultimately opened the door. But any way you slice it, Koji Uehara is deserving.
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