MESA, Ariz. -- Taped to the top of Koji Uehara's locker are two pages with headshots of the Cubs players and coaching staff."I'm a rookie," Uehara said, laughing at his way of trying to learn his new teammates.The right-hander actually isn't a rookie, but entering his ninth season in the
MESA, Ariz. -- Taped to the top of Koji Uehara's locker are two pages with headshots of the Cubs players and coaching staff.
"I'm a rookie," Uehara said, laughing at his way of trying to learn his new teammates.
The right-hander actually isn't a rookie, but entering his ninth season in the Major Leagues after pitching 10 years in Japan. Asked how much longer he wants to pitch, Uehara, 41, didn't need his interpreter C.J. Matsumoto.
"Two more years," Uehara said in English.
So, he's announcing his retirement now?
"With me, it's more that I pitched 10 years in Japan, so to pitch 10 years here is my goal," he said.
The Cubs are happy to have his experience. He signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Cubs, deciding to reunite with his former Red Sox general manager, Theo Epstein, who is now president of baseball operations in Chicago.
"The main reason I chose this team was because I thought this team had the best chance to win it all," Uehara said.
Several teams were interested in him, Uehara said.
"He knows what he's doing," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the right-hander, who won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2013. "He hasn't been a real hard thrower throughout his career, so it's not like he's lost any velocity. His split is really a good pitch. He's very good against lefties."
Uehara does know a few of the Cubs players, and his son Kazuma is good friends with Cubs pitcher Jonathan Lester's son, Hudson. Lester knows to steer clear of Uehara after his outings in the dugout. The right-hander likes to give everyone in the dugout aggressive high-fives when he's done. Uehara is pacing himself in Spring Training.
"I'm going to try to destroy them all during the regular season," Uehara said. "I can't be like that first time out."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.