Right-hander Junichi Tazawa, the Japanese industrial league find who made four starts for the Red Sox last season and projected to be in Pawtucket's starting rotation, has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, manager Terry Francona said Tuesday.
The Red Sox medical staff will determine the next course of action, for Tazawa, who saw noted specialist Dr. James Andrews in Alabama. Surgery can’t be ruled out at this point.
Back at camp Tuesday morning, Tazawa said the tightness he'd experienced in camp this spring was something he had pitched with in the past in Japan, but decided to have it checked. Tazawa had given up five home runs in seven innings this spring.
The decision to send Tazawa to Andrews was made without having him checked first by Dr. Thomas Gill, the Red Sox medical director who is back in Boston.
“We’ve been talking to him the last several days about some tightness, and again, his version of tightness because of the language barrier, and how he’s been throwing, we just thought we needed to have this looked at,’’ Francona said after the Red Sox's 9-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
Tazawa was still in big league camp and was initially in the mix for a bullpen spot, although ultimately he figured to be sent to Pawtucket, where he would start. In seven innings spanning five appearances, he had allowed 10 hits, including five home runs.
“He wasn’t driving the ball down,’’ Francona said. “That last little extension is an indicator. We wanted him to be checked. We felt it was important to do that.’’
Tazawa last pitched in an exhibition game March 22, and had not thrown for the last few days. Tazawa, who signed as an international free agent in December 2008, began experiencing discomfort in the elbow in the latter part of last season, pitching coach John Farrell said, according to the Associated Press.
"There were times in camp here that he felt normal and there were other times where because of lack of command or action to his pitches he felt like something wasn't quite right either in the game or the amount of recovery time he would need," Farrell said. "And we mapped out his workload to give him ample time to recover, although it got to a point where we needed to take a further look and get an in-depth evaluation."