Red Sox update: Koji Uehara to return next week

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Shortly after announcing that Joe Kelly will be ready to start versus the Yankees on Saturday night, the Red Sox’ injury concerns continue to clear up. Red Sox manager John Farrell noted that closer Koji Uehara, who suffered a strained hamstring during spring training, could be ready to join the Red Sox for the team’s home opener on Monday.

Uehara is scheduled to make a rehab appearance for the Single-A Greenville Drive tomorrow and has thrown live batting practice as well as a bullpen session since Tuesday. Farrell commented that “We’re not ruling out the possibility that [Uehara could return] after one outing.

This is obviously good news for the Red Sox, who would endure just two series without Uehara. In the meantime, Farrell has declared Edward Mujica the team’s closer, but he is yet to encounter a save situation (though he did pitch the ninth inning of Boston’s 6-2 win last night). But while Mujica is a fine pitcher in his own right, he doesn’t compare to the dominance and efficiency of Uehara.

Uehara is coming off his second season with the Red Sox and, though he failed to achieve another historically dominant season as he did in 2013, he was still stellar last year. In 64 appearances from the bullpen, he posted a stingy 2.52 ERA to go with 11.2 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9. However, Uehara did wear down throughout the year and his ERA spiked from 1.65 in the first half to 4.35 in the second half due to a terrible stretch towards the end of the season.

Now 40 years old, the Red Sox must have felt that Uehara’s struggles at the season’s end are an anomaly rather than a trend, as they signed him to a 2 year/$18M contract in November. Hopefully an offseason of rest has helped Uehara recover and this hamstring ailment does not bother him throughout the season. But anyway you slice it, this is a big addition to the Red Sox bullpen.