Koji Uehara, Relief Pitcher, Chicago Cubs
Date of Birth: 4/3/1975
Birthplace: Osaka, Japan
College: Osaka Taiiku University, Japan
Current Salary: $6,000,000
Koji Uehara, relief pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, pitched in Japan from 1999 through 2008. He had a great first year and he was named the Central League Rookie of the Year in 1999. That year, he led Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. He was named the NPB MVP and he won a Golden Glove for his defense. In 2002, he again led NPB in wins and he won his second MVP award. The following year, he led NPB in strikeouts for the second time and he won a second Golden Glove. He led NPB in ERA again in 2004.
Uehara signed with the Baltimore Orioles in January, 2009. His first season in US major league baseball was unremarkable. As a starting pitcher for the Orioles, he had a 2-4 record and a 4.05 ERA in 12 games. In 2010, he was moved to the Orioles' bullpen, pitching both as the setup man and as their closer. He finished the season with 13 saves and a 2.86 ERA in 44.0 innings in 43 games.
After 43 games with the Orioles in 2011, they traded Uehara to the Texas Rangers. Pitching from both bullpens, he finished the 2011 season with a 2.35 ERA in 65.0 innings. In 2012, he pitched out of the Rangers' bullpen, finishing with an ERA of 1.75 in 37 games.
Uehara signed with the Boston Red Sox in December, 2012. He had his best season in 2013, pitching from both the setup and closer positions. In a career high 73 games, he had 21 saves and a career low ERA of 1.09. From July 9th to September 17, 2013, he retired 37 consecutive batters. He continued his hot season into the postseason, winning the American League Championship Series MVP award. In 13 postseason games, he had seven saves and a 0.66 ERA. He gave up seven hits, including one home run, and just one run in 13.2 innings. He struck out 16 batters and walked none.
In 2014, Uehara again pitched as the Red Sox closer for most of the season. He finished the season with a career high 26 saves and a 2.52 ERA in 64.1 innings in 64 games. He signed a two-year contract extension with the Red Sox in October, 2014.
Uehara was hit on his right wrist by a batted ball on August 7, 2015, and the resulting injury ended the season for him. He finished the season with 25 saves, 47 strikeouts to 9 walks, and a 2.23 ERA in 40.1 innings in 43 games.
Uehara finished the 2016 season with a 3.45 ERA in 50 games. He had 2 wins to 3 losses, 7 saves, and 63 strikeouts to 11 walks in 47.0 innings. In the postseason, he pitched 2.0 innings in 2 games and he gave up just one hit and no runs.
Uehara singed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Cubs on December 14, 2016.
Career pitching statistics for Uehara through 2016 include:
- 387 games played
- 437.2 innings pitched
- 19-22 win-loss record
- 93 saves
- 522 strikeouts to 66 walks
- 2.53 ERA