Koji Uehara could provide solid depth to the Tigers bullpen in 2013

Rick Yeatts

Uehara pitched well down the stretch for the Texas Rangers last season and will be a nice piece for someone's bullpen in 2013.

It's been a nice break, but it's time for us (and possibly the Tigers) to get back to work. Today's target is relief pitcher Koji Uehara, formerly of the Texas Rangers.

Who is he?

Apart from having some pretty epic sideburns, Uehara is another solid relief pitcher that may be leaving the Rangers organization this offseason. He made his major league debut at age 34 in 2009 with the Baltimore Orioles before being traded to the Rangers in July of 2011. He has been pretty solid throughout his MLB career, holding down a 2.89 ERA while striking out nearly 10 batters per nine innings. Prior to playing in the U.S., Uehara pitched as a starter for the Yomiuri Giants in the Japanese League for seven seasons before transitioning to the bullpen after an injury.

Why should we care?

Uehara was a monster down the stretch in 2012 for the Rangers, allowing just two earned runs in 14 2/3 innings in August and September after returning from an injury. He also struck out 21 batters during that time period while allowing just eight baserunners. He is no stranger to striking batters out though. He has struck out at least 10.75 batters per nine innings in each of the past three seasons. He also doesn't walk many batters; his 29 career walks are just two more than Jose Valverde allowed in 2012 alone.

Why should we stay away?

Uehara was limited to just 36 innings last season with an injury to his right latissimus dorsi muscle -- a muscle in the back that attaches at the shoulder and is pretty crucial for a successful pitching motion -- and didn't pitch for nearly 2 1/2 months at one point. While the injury should be a non-issue heading into 2013, his age could be. Uehara will be 38 in early April. This isn't particularly old for a relief pitcher, but considering his history as a starter, Uehara's arm could be on its last legs (for lack of a better word).

Will he end up in Detroit?

I have no idea. Honestly, I hadn't heard anything about Uehara all offseason until someone mentioned in the comments that he was a free agent. I think he would be a great pick up, but it seems as if there are too many teams interested in him for Uehara to slip through the cracks until January or February, which seems to be Dave Dombrowski's plan of attack for the bullpen at this point.

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