Uehara brought Orioles special gift

Uehara brought Orioles special gift
October 18, 2013, 9:00 am
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(Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s become a Red Sox postseason habit. David Ortiz waits for Koji Uehara and lifts him over his head in celebration.

Lots of Orioles fans aren’t rooting for Boston, and that’s understandable. If the Yankees can’t be rooted against, then let’s try the Red Sox.

Boston took a 3-2 lead in the American League Championship Series with a 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night.

Game 6 is on Saturday in Boston.

Could the Red Sox be one game away from the World Series without Koji-san? More importantly, could the Orioles be where they are without him?

Uehara was the Orioles’ first Asian import. Signed in 2009, he struggled with injuries in his first year as a starter. Worried that he couldn’t withstand the physical pressures of starting, the Orioles made him a reliever in 2010, and he saved 13 games, though he was injured at times.

In 2011, he became a great setup man, and when the Texas Rangers wanted bullpen help come trade deadline, Andy MacPhail traded him for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter.

Koji was sharp in the first four months of 2011 for the Orioles, allowing just 4.8 hits per nine innings. He wasn’t as good for the Rangers, who didn’t put him on the World Series roster that year. His appearances in the Division Series and League Championship Series were that unimpressive.

After spending last year with Texas, Uehara wanted to re-sign with the Orioles. There was interest, but Boston paid more.

He started this year behind Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, but after they suffered season-ending injuries, Uehara was made the closer.

With 21 saves and four more so far in the postseason, it’s been a terrific year for Uehara.

When the Orioles traded Uehara to the Rangers, they kicked in some money to offset his salary. Without that, Davis wouldn’t have broken the team’s home run record this year.

MacPhail made some outstanding trades in his time with the Orioles, acquiring Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and J.J. Hardy, but this deal stands out in a special way.

Yes, it’s OK to root for Koji Uehara now.