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.”