ARLINGTON, Texas -- It appears an already strong Texas Rangers bullpen is getting stronger. Besides the reinforcements that should arrive some time shortly after September 1, when rosters expand, the addition of Koji Uehara gives manager Ron Washington an important late-inning option.
Uehara, who admitted Wednesday that he's a bit rusty, pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in an 8-4 loss to the Rays, keeping the Tampa Bay bats at bay with the hopes that the Texas offense could mount a comeback. It didn't, but Uehara showed he's healthy and finding his form again. He also pitched a scoreless inning against the Minnesota Twins in the last series.
"We consider him a winning piece," Washington said. "At that point, we were trying to keep the game there. He came in and gave us 1 2/3 innings of pretty good baseball. The more we can get him in there and get him to face some hitters with the time he’s been out, the better he’s going to be. He’s going ot be a big piece for us as we move forward."
The splitter, a pitch that baffles hitters when Uehara has command of it, was on display. He got a couple of strikeouts and allowed two ground ball hits. But Uehara did the job and looked confident in doing it.
"I was pretty satisfied with the splits and my four seamers, but the second inning I don't think I was mentally where I needed to be," said Uehara, through an interpretor.
Uehara said he's been impressed by how the bullpen has pitched as he's followed the club while rehabbing the past few months.
"I want to be able to reach that level," Uehara said. "I want to be part of that bullpen. I know they have pitched well."