Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara to rumble for closer role

Koji Uehara (The Associated Press)
Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

The ink was not even dried yet on closer Craig Kimbrel's shiny new Boston Red Sox contract after being traded by the Padres, when manager John Farrell jumped on a call with Koji Uehara.

The first thing Farrell asked was if Uehara would return to the setup role he held back at the start of his tenure with the Red Sox in 2013.

His reaction was as professional as we have come to expect stating, "...all he wants to do is to pitch in the World Series again."

Who can blame him?

Got to love a player that is flexible and effective, as Uehara said, "You don't have to worry about me. I'll pitch whenever asked to."

Uehara posted a 2.23 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 25 saves in 40 1/3 innings for Boston in 2015 before his season ended Aug. 10 when he was diagnosed with a non-displaced distal radius fracture. Uehara will be 41 before the 2016 season starts, putting some urgency on his desires to return to the World Series rather sooner than later.

In that same 2015 season for the Padres, Kimbrel posted a 2.58 and 39 saves in 61 outings (59 1/3 innings) and even better, he is only 27 years old.
Craig Kimbrel (Getty Images)

With that the possible rumble that was shaping up between these two closers has died with a fizzle.

It is not hard to look back at how weak the Red Sox would have been in a playoff run with Uehara getting hurt to only be able to fall back to bullpen options Junichi Tazawa and Robbie Ross Jr. If the season was not already gone, it would have fluttered away for sure. Now it looks as if the Red Sox want to be able to use Tazawa for the seventh, Ueahara for the eighth and closing out with Kimbrel.

With options like this, any injuries could be easily managed up by moving both Tazawa and Uehara up in the rotation, with a proven closer filling in for Kimbrel at a moments notice.

"With the acquisition of Craig, we're in a spot where we can move Koji to the eighth inning," Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said, confirming the desire to bolster the back end of the bullpen.

Rejoice Red Sox fans, the Samurai duo is back on track to slam the door should any started be unable to get past the sixth inning in 2016, something we have gotten used to watching of late. Next up will be more of a focus on trading or spending for the starting rotation, ideally making the need for such a strong back end of the bullpen obsolete.

Post a comment or via twitter @erics_redsox with your thoughts.

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