Keeping a close watch on Koji Uehara

My bags are packed and I'm ready for the airport. But is the airport ready for me?

I'm trying to tear myself away from my 800th viewing of "Cobra" on Spike TV, easily one of the worst movies ever made.

Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen.

I know, I know ... how could they possibly mess up that one?

Stallone utters one of my all-time favorite cringe-worthy lines while confronting a shooter in a grocery store about two minutes into the flick: "You're a disease, and I'm the cure."

The fact that he's wearing dark shades and has a match stick in his mouth just adds to the moment.

I guess that's my cinematic guilty pleasure - a movie so bad that it's somehow good, if that makes any sense. I hope you can relate.

Anyway, back to baseball ...

I mentioned this week that I'm looking forward to watching Mark Reynolds at third base. As pitchers go, I'll be totally locked into Koji Uehara.

This will be my third spring training with Uehara. His hamstring has barked during the first two, leading to accusations that he's dogging it. (See what I did there?)

One of his teammates walked past me last summer and jokingly asked where I'd rate Uehara for toughness on a scale of 1 to 10. He turned out to be a pretty tough closer, recording 13 saves in 15 chances and ending the season with a streak of 44 strikeouts without a walk.

Uehara retired the first batter he faced in 37 of his 43 appearances. None of his 13 inherited runners scored.

The joke wasn't on him.

I need to see him get through seven weeks of camp without a limp, without the daily updates on his hammy that come from interpreter Jiwon Bang. And he needs to make manager Buck Showalter's decision on a closer much more difficult.

The assumption right now is that Kevin Gregg will emerge as the primary ninth-inning specialist. That's a big reason why he signed with the Orioles, who figured to give him that opportunity. And Uehara told reporters in December that he would be fine in a set-up role.

Probably so, but he deserves a chance to take the ball in the ninth if he outshines Gregg.

The first step must come without a limp.

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