Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz, calling into last night’s Hot Stove Show on 105.7 The Fan and ESPN 1300, reported that Koji Uehara is throwing in Japan and apparently in good health after going on the disabled list for the last time on June 24 and missing the rest of the season.
“Everything I’ve heard is that he’s throwing,” Kranitz said. “Obviously, we have to put some eyes on him to really find out how he’s doing, because we don’t have anybody there to look at him. But knowing Koji, he’s a professional. He wants to do well, he wants to succeed here in the United States. I would hope that he’s ready to go.”
Uehara is expected to work out of the bullpen this summer, though his role hasn’t been clearly defined.
“He’s really a two-pitch guy, and at times he’ll want to throw his split three or four times in a row,” Kranitz said. “He didn’t really use his cutter that much. When he came over from Japan, he rarely used it. He was kind of a two-pitch guy, and I’m not sure if that’s the reason why he ended up closing over there in Japan. He wore down a little bit for us, especially later in games. And when hitters have a chance to see you and only have to worry about two pitches, it’s much easier for them to adjust, and you have to be perfect.
“Obviously, he pitched some great games for us. His command was fantastic. If he comes in healthy and he’s ready to go, and if he throws the ball the way he did in spring training, he’s going to be a big help to us. I just don’t know where yet. He could fit anywhere from the seventh inning to the ninth inning. You just never know. It’s hard to say right now. He could run three innings through a lineup and keep us in the game, or if he’s throwing the ball that well, he could pitch late in the ballgames.
“I’m really anxious to see him throw. I can’t wait to see him, and hopefully he’ll be throwing the ball like he did when we had him the first time he stepped on the field in Fort Lauderdale.”
Uehara had serious stamina issues last season, and a move to the bullpen would seem to benefit everyone. The Orioles knew it was a possibility when they signed him.
“The good thing about a reliever is we can give him all the time that we need. We don’t have to tax him,” Kranitz said.
“I thought that’s what happened a little bit last year. He petered out a few times there once he got his third or fourth start. He was laboring a little bit. We have a chance to only pitch him once every two or three days for a while and let his arm rebound and let him get going again. I think we can bring him along slowly if need be.”