Healthy Uehara becoming a force for O's
Reliever getting opportunities in critical situations
BALTIMORE -- Finally healthy, Koji Uehara is giving the Orioles what they hoped for this spring: a secret weapon out of the bullpen.
"It looks to me like he's fully back to where he should be," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said of Uehara, who pitched to a 0.84 ERA in his past 10 outings, a stretch of 10 2/3 innings. "We have no concerns of using him back-to-back nights, maybe a multiple-inning night. He's shown the ability to do that."
Uehara, who tossed a scoreless inning, including two strikeouts, in Friday's game, said that his right elbow feels great and the All-Star break helped him get some extra rest. While several Orioles have admitted a spike in performance has been partially due to auditioning for new manager Buck Showalter, Uehara said he's been trying to prove himself all year.
"All I have to do is show [Buck] 100 percent every time," he said, through interpreter Jiwon Bang.
Uehara has been on the disabled list twice this season with hamstring and elbow injuries and struggled with heat and conditioning issues that caused ex-manager Dave Trembley to admit that the O's needed to exhibit extra caution in using him. Juan Samuel, Showalter's predecessor on an interim basis, wasn't quite as careful, challenging Uehara to go a season-high two scoreless innings on July 22 and making it clear that the guys that were available would pitch.
Showalter seems to have a similar approach, inserting Uehara in the seventh inning of Wednesday's game to record a crucial third out and stop the Angels from adding to a five-run inning.
"He's a strike thrower and he can defend himself against left-handed hitters with the split," Showalter said of the decision. "And that's why he's in that situation. That's a good combination."
Showalter sent Uehara back out for the eighth, and he promptly struck out the side. The Orioles went on to win, 9-7.
"He means a lot to this club because he can do a variety of roles," Kranitz said. "He's got that fire in him."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.