In 2009, I think everyone who followed the O’s knew that having Koji Uehara as the number 2 starter was a stretch. In his previous season in Japan, he made 14 starts and 12 relief appearances, so there was precedent of having him come out of the bullpen. When US teams were looking at him most of them were projecting him as a reliever. The 2009 O’s were desperate, and so they gave him the opportunity he desired as their number 2 starter.
For a while it looked like a great move. While his numbers weren’t outstanding, he did beat the Yankees in his first appearance and he had few more strong outings. He also had a few forgettable moments. His 2-3 record by the end of May was not indicative about how well he pitched. He had several 6-7 inning, 1-2 ER performances. The O’s just couldn’t get him the win.
The trouble for Koji started on May 23rd when he went down with a hamstring injury. A 14-day DL stint later, he was pitching again. This time around, O’s fans knew something wasn’t right. His starts were noticeably shorter and he was looking more tired each time out. On June 23, he labored through a game against the Marlins. He physically looked awful. He was exhausted and spent. It would be the last time we would see Uehara in 2009 as he went back on the DL with an elbow injury.
In 2010, we get to see Koji the reliever. I must say that I am excited about this. If there is anything Koji does well, it is throwing strikes. He doesn’t walk the opposition. The O’s need age and experience to help them finish games. There is no doubt in my mind that Koji will be a leader in the bullpen and he will be successful as long as the O’s can find a way to keep him healthy. What remains to be seen is exactly how many innings can Koji pitch for the Birds this season.