BOSTON -- Koji Uehara entered Tuesday night's game in a nonsave situation in the ninth inning. Seven pitches later, he exited clutching his right arm and "praying" he hadn't suffered a serious injury.
It was the last thing the Boston Red Sox needed, especially with closer Craig Kimbrel already on the disabled list.
Uehara described the injury as "muscle soreness" after the Red Sox's 4-0 win over the San Francisco Giants. Boston manager John Farrell characterized it as a "strained pectoral muscle." Either way, the Red Sox won't be certain how long Uehara will be sidelined until the 41-year-old right-hander is re-evaluated Wednesday.
"It's just some soreness that I feel," Uehara said through translator C.J. Matsumoto. "I thought it was just soreness. Muscle soreness. I'm just praying that it's not that serious."
Uehara said he felt the soreness on his fifth pitch of the inning. He struck out Giants first baseman Brandon Belt on the next pitch, then threw one pitch to Buster Posey before summoning Farrell and an athletic trainer. After a brief mound conference, Uehara left the game and went directly into the clubhouse to be examined.
Farrell defended his decision to use Uehara with the Red Sox leading by four runs, even though the team is set to begin a stretch of 20 consecutive games without a day off and Kimbrel is out until at least next month after undergoing surgery on his left knee on July 11.
"We've seen Koji Uehara where he's worked best with a clean inning," Farrell said. "If [the Giants] have got a guy on, middle of the order, going to go to him. He's most effective, most efficient with a clean inning. Four-run game at home, that's the reason to go to him in that spot."
Indeed, Farrell has been consistent with his usage of Uehara is such situations. Since midway through the 2013 season, when Uehara took over in the closer role, Farrell has brought him in to start the ninth inning with a four-run lead 12 times.
Farrell said he "can't tell you at this point how much time Koji will miss."
In Uehara's absence, recently acquired setup man Brad Ziegler would be the first choice to close games. Ziegler had 18 saves for the Arizona Diamondbacks before being traded to the Red Sox on July 9.
The Red Sox also are expecting setup man Junichi Tazawa (right shoulder impingement) to return from the disabled list before Friday night's game against the Minnesota Twins.
"As we've had to go to other guys to step up, we'll look to do that," Farrell said. "With Brad here, again, not knowing how long Koji will be down, we've got other options to go to to close out ballgames."