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July 30, 2011

Emotional Koji talks about being traded

Always calm and collected, right-hander Koji Uehara breezed through his farewell press conference in the bowels of Yankee Stadium on Saturday night until he was asked which of his Orioles teammates he would miss the most now that he had been traded to the Texas Rangers for first baseman Chris Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter.

“Everybody,” Uehara said through interpreter Jiwon Bang.

And then, as reporters shook his hand and began walking away, tears filled Uehara’s eyes and trickled down his cheeks.

After becoming the first Japanese player in Orioles history when he signed a two-year deal before the 2009 season, Uehara, with his sideburns and wide smile, morphed into a fan favorite, especially this season when he went 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA in 43 games in relief. He walked eight batters and struck out 62 while allowing just 25 hits in 47 innings pitched.

“We're not going to be on the same team anymore, but if they have time to check me out,
that would be great,” Uehara said about his supporters in Baltimore. “I just want to thank the fans for their cheers and everything.”


Although rumors had been swirling for days about Uehara potentially being traded, he said, “Honestly speaking, yes. I was surprised.”


Uehara is expected to meet the Rangers on the road in Toronto on Sunday and will join a first-place team in the American League West after spending the past two-plus seasons with the American League East doormat.


"There are two contradicting feelings. Part of me says that a contending team wants me, and that's gratifying,” Uehara said. “At the same time, Baltimore -- I've been there for two years. It's really sad.”


The Rangers, the defending American League champs, need to solidify their bullpen and Uehara should help do that. However, he has never been a fan of pitching in the heat, and in May 2010 had a meltdown in Arlington in which he was perspiring so badly it looked as if he had gone swimming on the mound.


“Maybe that's one big concern that I may have,” Uehara said about the Texas heat. “I'm not sure, yet, but maybe.”


But he knows he’ll be going to a good team that has a chance to go far in the postseason.


“They have a great lineup and great starting pitching,” Uehara said. “They give me a chance to pitch, and I'll do my best.”





Posted by Dan Connolly at 9:01 PM | | Comments (35)
        

Comments

Koji should be crying tears of joy to get away from this joke of an organization.

This has got to be brutal on Koji. He came here from Japan and the O's are all he's known...this was his family. Throw in the fact that he doesn't speak English and getting to know new teammates has got to be extra daunting. Hopefully the Rangers can get him assimilated quickly.

All the best, Koji...here's hoping you walk away with a ring.

Best of luck Koji. Thanks for being the O's best pitcher this year.

This story should remind all of us that these baseball players are human beings and not some pawn on a team. That being said, the O's truly are a joke of an organization as Chris mentions above. It really is not so much the players that need rotating, but the oganization needs an inside out cleansing. It is just unbelievable how just about the total starting rotation of pitchers have meltdowns and the lineup meltin down all at the same time. That, to me, speaks to a management issue more than anything the individual players themselves. What do I know, though, I'm just a layman. Matusz seems to agree with me when he essentially blames the pitching coach of trying to adjust his mechanics early on in the season. Something like that should be done in the offseason so as to not bear down on the pitchers confidence. Also, Connor stepping down also raises my suspicions.

Getting back to Uehara, it is going to be tough to lose such an effective, in my mind, closer, who never was a closer for the O's for some reason. I, too, wish him continued success in the hot, but not humid Texas land of winners. I'm been thinking of becoming a Texas fan for the past two months. Perhaps this trade will get me there.

Dan or Jeff -

Chris Davis could have tons of upside with some impressive power, but has continued to dissapoint at the major league level. Most alarming, his career strikeout rate stands at 31.7%, and he doesn't walk much. It seems like he's reached potential at Triple A.

1) Is this the answer the O's are looking for a 1B?

2) This trade seems like another trade is coming. Do you think the Pirates have sweetened their offer for Derrick Lee (if the rumors are correct)?

Also, Tommy Hunter has been on the DL most of the season with a groin injury. After he was actived, the Rangers placed him in the bullpen, where he has been pitching pretty well. He was primarily a starter the 2 previous seasons.

1) do you see Hunter remaining in the bullpen for the remainder of the season, or

2) do you see the Orioles planning to strech him out for a possible September/late season call to the rotation? Or will he enter the rotation immediatly (could be a mistake)?

Thanks.

And good luck to Koji. Hopefully the Rangers don't have him pitching day games in Arlington

That Texas heat is BRUUUUUTAL. 100+ the entire summer. Good luck too him at least the Rangers have another japanese player to help him transition.

I like Koji. A VERY GOOD pitcher. One of the few who have been consistent out of the bullpen...

So, let's be smart and trade him away. Absolutely brilliant.

NOT!!!

I've supported the O's for a long time, but I REALLY DISLIKE this trade.

Trade away Guthrie and continue the brilliance, Andy.

Geesh!

Stands to reason that the only reliever the O's have who can throw a strike has to be shipped off somewhere.

I am SO weary of losing, year after year. But (at 74) if I can live until the O's can reach .500, I'll probably set a new world's record for longevity!

Just what the Orioles need -- another guy named Davis.

Good luck to Koji. He's one guy who can't be blamed for how bad this team has been this year.

Toooooooooooo hotttt

Koji performed very well and with class. As a diehard Orioles fan, I can easily relate to shedding a few tears upon leaving Baltimore. Actually, I'd be bawling like a baby if it happened to me. Koji is going to enjoy playing for Ron Washington. I know I would.

As for the Orioles themselves, I WISH I HAD A TRILLION DOLLARS...to buy the team from Angelos. I see nothing but cluelessness amongst most of the people in the organization.

First of all, best of luck to you Koji; you're a top notch major league pitcher and you sure seem like a good man, as well.

Secondly, we got whom for our best "trade chip"? Davis seems to have just enough talent to excel at AAA, but not enough for the bigs. I thought we already had a surplus of guys in that category. Oh, and a pitcher who can join Brian Roberts on the IDL - the infinite disabled list. Great trade, Andy!

Best of luck, Koji. Thanks for coming to Baltimore. It's been great to have a chance to see you pitch.

Send McPhail to DC and introduce him to Congressman Boehner and Senator Reed....their deals don't make any sense either.


I hope Koji gets a ring with Texas.....

Wow. Koji was always a welcome sight on the mound. An actual pitcher who knew how to play. So we trade him. Brilliant. The O's front office leads this franchise about as well as the 1962 Mets played baseball.

Good luck, Koji-san. Hope you get a ring out of this trade.

I love watching Koji pitch. I hope he comes back in the off-season. Would not surprise me if he doesn't do well in Texas, what with the new environment and the heat. He's a great guy.

I think the deal may be in the Orioles' favor, but sometimes you have to keep the hometown favorite. I'm pretty sure true Baltimore baseball fans, not just the women, liked Koji more than Nick Markakis or Brian Roberts. I'm also sad to see Lee go. Overpaid, but still a class act and I enjoyed rooting for him. He's going to do well in the NL.

FYI, perhaps a conspiracy theory, but it seems that the Orioles only sign studs to long-term, lucrative contracts, because Baltimore women will come out to the games to root for them.

This really makes sense. A team whose #1 problem is pitching trades away the #1 set-up man in the AL. Huge mistake but wish Koji (the only guy who could throw strikes) well. I suppose tomorrow we'll hear we've traded away our best starter (Guthrie) as well. Once JJ moves to rotation we'll have worst bullpen in baseball. Fortunately I am really old and can remember the 60's, 70's, and 80's. I feel really badly for younger fans. Don't see any improvement likely in my lifetime.

GOOD LUCK BEST WISHES KOJI.!!! WELCOME HUNTER AND DAVIS. I BELIEVE andy has done the best he could expect to get for KOJI. YES I have a big question mark on these players but risk is what you get going for high upside. DAVIS I have followed several years now the question is is he a AAAA player or a little later bloomer, like adrian gonzalez was in texas. Hunter could be a plus find for a pitching short organisation. BUT I remember early last year fans cussing ANDY for signing KOJI, now to see where they hit DAVIS and what they do with LEE. MY first hope was AZ. wanting koji and lee and working out something for GOLDSCHMIDT. but I had small hope there. DO the best you can ANDY.

Koji, I wish you all the best. You were a real bright spot on this team. You bring an energy and extra spark to the mound. You take the job seriously and it shows. Good luck to you and your family in your new job. I echo the sentiments of another poster: Hope you walk away with a ring!

good luck you are a professional now show them what you can do for them

Thanks for a great season Koji. Loved watching you work - threw strikes, worked quickly, rarely shook off your catcher, trusted your stuff. A true pro. You'll be missed.

Good for Koji.....he should be elated to get out of this organization. Wonder how many fans the Os will draw in Aug/Sept? Way to show up in NY Os..

Tom Hanks told us that "there's no crying in Baseball" but he didn't have to say good bye to Koji. He moved his family to Baltimore, enrolled his son in a Baltimore school, became a Marylander in every sense of the word, gave all that he had to give to the team, and is now being uprooted to Texas. One of the few major leaguers on our team, one of the few bright spots on this under performing team, has been taken away from us. I'm not ashamed to weep over his loss and our loss.
And this pretty much wraps up rooting for the Orioles through thin and thinner. From long distance, I'll be rooting for the the Rangers. However, I'll say this: Nolan Ryan is an honest broker and this was a fair trade for both teams. I'm going to follow this honest broker and his new eighth inning reliever into the playoffs. Win or lose, I'll be following a team with ownership that cares about winning and winning a permanent fan base.
Good Bye, Koji. You made a difference while you were here. I hope the forces of Destiny will bring you back some day.

This is the last straw! After 51 years of following the Orioles, I'm finished! Andy McPhail's father Lee would never make a trade like this. It's clear Andy must go! The Orioles trade the best reliever in baseball for another 2 failures. Shades of George Sherrill going to the Dodgers for Bell, a washout. Angelos bears the ultimate responsibility for hiring Andy McPhail. Koji desrved better.

you fans need to get real and see Koji for who he is, a pitcher who has hit his peak. I credit the organization for getting something at all. Looking at Koji's stats, he really has nowhere to go but down. Let me ask you something......what leads from here on out are actually worth protecting? Davis strikes out about 1/3 of his ABs but who cares? He's 25 and may be a late bloomer, maybe not. Let's give a younger guy (relatively speaking) a chance rather than a 35+ guy at 1st. I liked Koji very much but think he'll quickly wilt in the TX heat and pressure of a real playoff push which is something he never really had to worry about in B-more.

Have you all lost your minds? It doesn't matter who is on this team they're not winning this year anyway. What is your reasoning? Instead of losing 100 games, we'll only lose 95? You say once he's gone and JJ moves to the rotation we'll have the worst bullpen in MLB? Sorry to break this to you, but they already are the worst bullpen in MLB. C'mon people. Whether you trade him or not Koji is a free agent at the end of the year, if they're so enamored with him then just make a serious play to re-sign him. Plus you guys were probably the same people who were whining because he's been hurt the last two years. At least this way we get some warm bodies back for him. Yes Chris Davis is probably a AAAA player but he's still better than anything you have now. And just last year Hunter was 13-4. And now that they have Davis maybe the delusional people who thought Prince Fielder would even sniff Camden Yards, will shut up. Everybody just needs a dose of reality, McPhail is still hamstrung by an egomaniac owner and this team will never win til there is new ownership. So I guess never in our lifetime. Go Ravens.

This is going to be great. Another AAA player acquired (Chris Davis). He'll fit in with the rest of the Orioles perfectly. We already have about 4 position players that should be in AAA and an entire starting rotation that should be in AAA. Make yourself at home Chris Davis.

For the Orioles fans who don't know Davis and Hunter that well, here's the deal. Davis needs to shorten his swing to hit the inside fastballs and layoff off-speed pitches off the plate. Until he does, he will struggle. If he figures that out the way Josh Hamilton did, he will be an unbelievable hitter. His 1st base defense is the best the Rangers ever had. Very agile and quick for a big man. If Davis figures it all out, you may have Gold Glove, Home Run champ.

Hunter can throw any pitch for a strike. He hangs too many that end up in the bleachers, but he is a Bulldog. Tough, just needs to continue to mature. A #3 or 4 type starter who has stepped his fastball to 95 since his last injury (from 90 - 91). The Rangers have a ridiculous amount of starting pitching at the Big League level and waiting to come up. All those years of completely sucking, gave them so many top picks that they have a crazy amount of starting pitching.

Davis and Hunter are a great deal for the Orioles. It may not happen immediately, but I watched Davis all the time at AAA, and he may end up being something VERY special. He needs to keep geting more humble.

The Orioles got a pretty good return for Koji but lost one of the nicest and humble people on the squad. He's pure class. We will miss him terribly. Perhaps he'll come back one day. He's going to a winner and that's good. From worst to best....there's nothing wrong with that. And the Orioles, with their dreadful organization from top to bottom, will be a train wreck for many many years to come under Angelos. Stop with "the future" when talking about this team. They define what it means to STINK and will be that way for many years until they change their rancid owner.

I think this trade means the O's are officially out of the Prince Fielder sweepstakes. Anyone surprised?

You guys crack me up. AAA players. If only,,, heck that would be a step up.

12 runs in the first inning, AAAA ha ha ha

Dan--Thanks for posting this interview with Koji. College Professor captures so many of my feelings.

Koji became one of my favorite Orioles. His ability to come in and throw strike after strike and still fool guys--looking and swinging--was unbelievable.

I loved Koji's presence, professionalism, and how he became a part of the Baltimore community. He's an exceptional relief pitcher and a good guy.

All the best for you, Koji. I'll be pulling for you with the Rangers.

I would love to have you back again with the Orioles.

Wow, am I going to miss Koji. I will miss Koji's sincere answere to reporters questions. I will miss Jiwon Bang. I will miss listening to Joe Angel and Fred Manfra get excited when Koji enters a game. I will miss hearing that "It starts with a K" when Koji mows down hitters.

Koji was great for Orioles baseball and great for Baltimore. I hope Koji chooses to continue to live in Baltimore.

Dear Koji...........ありがとうございます

.....and good luck. You will be missed!!

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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