Junichi Tazawa shut down by Red Sox for season due to heavy workload

BALTIMORE -- The Boston Red Sox have elected to shut down top setup man Junichi Tazawa for the rest of the season, interim manager Torey Lovullo announced after Tuesday night's 6-5, 13-inning loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

Tazawa last pitched Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field, where he was charged with four runs in a third of an inning and took the loss in an 8-4 defeat. It was his worst outing since he was lit up for four runs on six hits in the ninth inning of an 8-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 23.

The Sox have played two 13-inning games since then, Sunday against the Rays and again Tuesday night. Lovullo used six relievers Sunday and eight on Tuesday.

"Tazawa has been shut down for the year," Lovullo said. "We decided a short time before the game that would be in our best interests. Taz has been a warrior for the past three years. Over 70 appearances in two consecutive seasons, was on pace for that this year. This was our way to pay him back, to get a jump-start on an offseason, recuperate, get strong and focus on 2016."

Since Aug. 1, Tazawa has allowed 24 hits and 14 earned runs in 13⅔ innings for a 9.22 ERA. From the start of the 2013 season until the All-Star break this season -- when he was still cruising with a 2.58 ERA in 39 appearances -- Tazawa had been summoned to pitch 181 times, the 12th-most appearances in the majors over that span. That doesn't count the 13 appearances he made in the 2013 postseason.

"I want to just make this perfectly clear," Lovullo said. "There is no injury. There is nothing behind this other than to give him a rest."

Lovullo said there was "zero" shoulder fatigue involved.

"He feels good," he said. "Just normal fatigue that all pitchers go through. He could pitch if we asked him to, but, like I said, we're trying to pay Taz back for what he's done for us."

The Red Sox have 18 games remaining on the schedule. Tazawa will finish the season with a 2-7 record and 4.14 ERA in 61 appearances, striking out 56 and walking 13 in 58⅔ innings. His seven blown saves lead the American League.

"I'm disappointed in myself that I have to shut down, that I brought it on myself," Tazawa said through translator C.J. Matsumoto, "that I can't pitch for the team for the rest of the year. But I think it will be a good thing for me to prepare for next season."

Like Lovullo, Tazawa said there was not an injury issue.

"I can pitch. I feel fine," he said. "I just feel grateful to the team that it would be best to rest for next season."

Asked if he tried to talk the team out of shutting him down, he said: "I understand where the team was coming from, so I just took the advice."

Tazawa acknowledged his workload might have been a factor in his ineffectiveness over the past six weeks.

"That might be the case, but I don't want to put it on the workload. I understand a lot of players go through this. I just want to take this as a good opportunity to rest up and get ready for next season."

The Red Sox paid Tazawa $2.25 million in 2015. He is arbitration-eligible again next season and will be eligible for free agency after the 2016 season.