ARLINGTON, Texas -- One of the big reasons that Koji Uehara has emerged as an important late-inning weapon for manager Ron Washington and pitching coaches Mike Maddux and Andy Hawkins is his splitter is once again baffling hitters, particularly lefties.
Uehara said he changed his grip on the pitch after he returned from a lenghty stay on the disabled list. Uehara missed 65 games with a right late muscle strain and has looked refreshed and lively.
Uehara feels that his mindset is also better, but that process began in spring training once he settled into being with the club in Surprise and preparing for the 2012 season.
"I think that helped," Uehara said through an interpreter. "Last year, I was in a way a transfer student. But this year, I was classmates with my teammates."
Uehara is 0-0 with a 1.93 ERA this seaosn. But since returning from the DL, he's been nearly unhitable. He has with 8 1/3 scoreless innings his last 11 games. He has retired all 20 batters he's faced in his last eight appearances, 12 of them on strikeouts, and he's gotten 25 of the last 27 out overall.
"I'm getting better and better," Uehara said.
He was asked if his postseason struggles last year are driving him this time of year. He gave up three runs on two hits and didn't record an out in his only appearance in the ALDS and sported a 13.50 ERA in the ALCS (two earned runs in 1 1/3 innings).
"I've forgotten about the postseason last year," Uehara said. "I don't even want to think about it. I'd rather you not even ask that question anymore."
Uehara was smiling after he said that last part. And overall, he looks comfortable and confident -- whether he's talking to the media or on the mound. With Mike Adams out, Uehara's importance only increases now.
"He's pitched well and he's fresh," Washington said earlier this week. "We're counting on him."