'Beyond excited to be here': Uwasawa set for first MLB stint

April 28th, 2024

BOSTON -- Red Sox righty enthusiastically arrived for his first day in the Major Leagues, a Sunday Night Baseball matchup against the Cubs at Fenway Park.

It has been a whirlwind few months for the 30-year-old from Japan, who signed a Minor League deal with the Rays after being posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters.

After spending Spring Training with Tampa Bay, Uwasawa was traded to the Red Sox on March 27, the day before Opening Day, then sent to Triple-A Worceser -- the team he was recalled from on Sunday.

“I'm beyond excited to be here,” Uwasawa said via interpreter Taishi Terashima.

And Fenway?

“I know that this stadium has a lot of history. And when I stepped [in] it, I really felt special things,” Uwasawa said.

A starter throughout his baseball life, Uwasawa was called on because the Red Sox needed another bulk-innings reliever in the bullpen. To make room on the roster, lefty Joely Rodríguez was designated for assignment.

“He’s going to provide us length [in the bullpen],” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “[His] fastball is not overpowering, but he has a good split, and that’s something we've been talking about throughout the weeks -- the usage. It’s a good pitch. He's going to pound the strike zone.

“So he'll be in the bullpen, and we’ll see how we do it. First time that he's done that in his career, except for Spring Training, so we’ve got to make sure when he's coming in [that] we give him some leeway to be ready. Excited to have him here. This is a guy we talked about in the offseason. It didn’t happen [then], but we like the split and the strike throwing, so we’ll see.”

In three starts for Worcester, Uwasawa went 2-1 with a 4.80 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 15 innings. His most recent start was his best, when he allowed one run over five innings while walking one and striking out seven.

Though the Red Sox have three starters on the injured list, Cora said Uwasawa is being thought of solely as a reliever at this point.

During his assimilation to the United States, Uwasawa has continued to refine his splitter and pitch usage.

“The split was something I always used, even back in Japan,” Uwasawa said. “After coming to the States and working on the splitter, I feel like it has more depth and it’s been consistent. Now, I’m using more splitters and I feel like the hitters have splitters in their mind, and I think other pitches play up when the splitter is going.”

Uwasawa was a three-time All-Star in Japan, and his 2023 season was the best of his career, putting together a 2.96 ERA over 170 innings for the Nippon Ham Fighters.