Uehara to begin throwing program
O's will move righty into bullpen for September return
BALTIMORE -- Koji Uehara will begin the road to recovery on Wednesday, and he'll do so at Baltimore's Minor League complex in Sarasota, Fla. Uehara, who has been sidelined since the end of June with a partially torn flexor tendon in his right elbow, will begin a throwing program and aim towards a September return.
"I don't know what the throwing program entails," said manager Dave Trembley. "Once he gets down there and gets more into it, I'll get more up-to-date reports on where he's at. Obviously, he's going to start flat-ground work. It's a ways before he gets up on the mound and has to face hitters and pitches in a simulated game."
Trembley went on to say that Uehara could even pitch in a Gulf Coast League game if he wanted to, and he stressed that the veteran won't need an extended rehab stint because he'll be coming back as a reliever. And when he returns, Uehara will work one-inning appearances until he proves he can handle the strain.
Uehara, who signed a two-year contract as a free agent, said that the experience has been mixed at best. Uehara, the first Japanese-born player in franchise history, said he would've liked to be healthy all season.
"It's been a bad season," said Uehara via interpreter Jiwon Bang. "If I could pitch according to my skills, I think I can compete well. But at the same time, I haven't been pitching."
Uehara, who went 2-4 with a 4.05 ERA in 12 starts, was expected to provide some stability to Baltimore's rotation. The experiment started well, with two victories in his first two outings. Uehara hasn't won since April, though, and he had to go to the disabled list with a hamstring injury before lodging there due to his elbow.
"Of all the things that happened this year, losing Koji has probably been the biggest vacancy," said Trembley. "We counted on him being the guy that was going to go out there every fifth day and give us a chance to win. ... Losing him really made some of the other guys come here earlier than perhaps we wanted them to. They've done a great job, but Koji's a winner. He's got experience, [and] he brought a lot of excitement each time he pitched."
Uehara, 34 years old, said that his season has been frustrating. And when asked if he was excited to get back on the mound, he said that he can't be too enthusiastic because the season is close to ending. Finally, the two-time Sawamura Award winner said that he'll pitch in relief if the that's where the team wants him.
Trembley, for his part, has said that the Orioles won't have enough time to work Uehara's pitch-count up to enable him to start. And when it comes to next year, Baltimore is keeping all of its options open.
"We're going to see where we're at and where he's at in the offseason," Trembley said. "See what our needs are and see where he's at physically to determine what his role will be coming into Spring Training."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.