Kepner: Finding a reliable relief pitcher is often a hit-or-miss struggle

From Tyler Kepner at the New York Times on March 30, 2014:

Koji Uehara got the first call to the bullpen for the Boston Red Sox last season — and the last. He retired the side in the sixth inning on opening day, and in the ninth inning to close the World Series. Fenway Park rejoiced, and the St. Louis Cardinals went home.

Two years earlier, in another Game 6, the Cardinals stormed from behind to shred the bullpen of the Texas Rangers, taking the title the next night. Uehara pitched for the Rangers that fall, but he was so bad in the playoffs that he was left off the World Series roster.

Jon Daniels, the Rangers’ general manager, had traded a future superstar, Chris Davis, for Uehara that summer. Daniels’s evaluation was accurate. Uehara was, indeed, precisely what the Rangers needed. And yet the Red Sox, who signed him mainly as insurance, got the dream outcome.

“The way I approached it, it was no different,” Uehara said recently through an interpreter, comparing 2011 with 2013. “Just the result was different. I can’t really tell you why.”


Not every brand-name closer can be Mariano Rivera, who retired from the Yankees as baseball’s career saves leader. Teams seeking the illusion of certainty in the role have paid dearly for it in recent seasons.

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Originally published: March 31, 2014. Last Updated: March 31, 2014.