Uehara's Final Vote candidacy far from over
Closer will need to get late boost from Red Sox Nation and fans in Japan
Koji Uehara might be trailing in the race to win the Final Vote for a trip to the All-Star Game, but it's nothing that can't be fixed with a late rally by all his fans in two countries.
The voting remains open on-line until 4 p.m. ET today, with the additional caveat that Twitter can be used as a virtual ballot for the rest of the day.
In addition to casting votes with the Final Vote ballot, fans can boost Uehara's candidacy with tweets that use Uehara's designated hashtag -- #HighFiveCiti.
That hashtag, of course, refers to the emphatic way Uehara high fives his teammates in the duguout after every solid inning.
Given the way the 38-year-old Uehara has pitched in his first year with the Red Sox, there have been a lot of high fives in the dugout this season.
When you consider the amount of Red Sox fans all over the place and the support Uehara has in Japan, he shouldn't be ruled out until the balloting is closed.
Uehara is competing with four other relievers -- Toronto's Steve Delabar; the Yankees' David Robertson; Tigers right-hander Joaquin Benoit and the Rangers' Tanner Sheppers. Delabar has led most of the way.
AL CANDIDATES BY THE NUMBERS
The Red Sox signed Uehara on the last day of the Winter Meetings, for a one-year, $4.25-million deal. Not much was made of the move at the time, at least from the general public.
But the Red Sox were quietly excited to get a pitcher with Uehara's determination and track record.
"If you look at his numbers over the years, I expected what he's doing now," said Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves. "He's capable of doing that and more. He's so steady. Nothing fazes him. He's a great competitor -- very intense."
When the season started, Uehara was a key member of the setup crew. But the first closer (Joel Hanrahan) underwent Tommy John Surgery. The second (Andrew Bailey) went into a bad slump, but could eventually work his way back into that role.
Uehara took over as the closer on June 21, and for the most part, he has flourished in that role.
"I certainly haven't changed anything in the way I've pitched, but maybe the results are a little different," said Uehara.
In 41 games this season, Uehara has a 1.88 ERA. He has 53 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings while holding the opposition to a .167 batting average.
Uehara has also served as a mentor this season to fellow Japanese reliever Junichi Tazawa.
"He was a player that I watched growing up, and just playing with a player of that kind of status has just been an honor, and it's been a fun time just playing with him," said Tazawa.
There is a lot to learn by watching a pitcher like Uehara.
"Just the mound presence and also the fact that he goes after everyone, even in tight spots," Tazawa said. "That's something I'm still trying to learn and trying to incorporate myself. I know there's a lot of learning curve, but hopefully I'll be able to get there."
Tazawa hopes the voters will realize how important Uehara has been to the Red Sox.
"He's just such a popular player in Japan with what he accomplished there," Tazawa said. "For him to be appreciated for what he has accomplished over here, I'm certainly rooting for him."
Red Sox players -- from Bailey to Mike Napoli to Jon Lester and several others -- have done their part to bolster Uehara's candidacy this week, tweeting for fans to cast their vote for Boston's right-hander.
Now in its 12th year, the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Saturday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and ends today at 4 p.m. ET. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote online. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 14-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 12-26. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15-percent discount to the MLB.com Shop. MLB.com will send an email on Friday to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.
Mobile voting in the U.S. and Canada is open to everyone. In the U.S., to receive the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for Uehara, simply text message A5 to 89269. In Canada, fans should text A5 to 101010. Standard message and data rates may apply. To vote for another player via text message, use the codes below.
A1 - Joaquin Benoit, Detroit
A2 - Steve Delabar, Toronto
A3 - David Robertson, New York Yankees
A4 - Tanner Scheppers, Texas
A5 - Koji Uehara, Boston
N1 - Ian Desmond, Washington
N2 - Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
N3 - Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles
N4 - Hunter Pence, San Francisco
N5 - Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles
For the second consecutive year, the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by freecreditscore.com (#FinalVote) will include a social balloting element as Twitter support from the candidates' fans over the last six hours of balloting will count toward their final vote totals. From 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. (EDT) on Thursday, July 11, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the overall vote total used to determine the American League and National League winners. Fans may follow @MLB on the popular social networking service for the latest standings updates in advance of the 4 p.m. ET balloting deadline.