When Koji Uehara was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in the off-season, not many knew that he was to become the first Japanese-born Oriole player. Ever. he also brought along hope for a better season and a better pitching rotation. So far, only a month and a half into the season, he has. Since his implosive game against the Texas Rangers, his earned run average has dropped off.
Hailing from Osaka, Uehara pitched for a lot of years in his home country of Japan before becoming posted as a free agent this past off-season. He spent all nine seasons in Japan playing for the Yomiuri Giants. His rookie season was 1999, where he won the Central league Rookie of the Year award. That season was also the debut season in Japan of a youngster named Diasuke Matsuzaka. Uehara would end the season by outperforming Matsuzaka. That wasn't even the major award he won in '99. Uehara would be named Sawamura Award winner, which is given to the best pitcher in Japan.
If given a nickname, Uehara would be called bullseye. His pinpoint accuracy is off the charts and has posted crazy numbers in the strikeout/walk catagories his whole career. During 2002, the year Uehara won his second Sawamura award, he posted an almost lucrative 182 strikeouts to 23 walks. The most walks he ever gave up in Japan, just 28. Nothing about Uehara is weakness thats easy to manipulate. However, his only weakness is the home run ball. As of writing this article, Uehara has given up six homers in 42.2 innings.
Coming into this season, many wanted to sign Uehara as a reliever, after seeing his success in 2007 as a closer for Yomiuri which included 32 saves a 1.74 Earned Run Average. The Orioles were one of a select few that wanted him for there rotation. Ever since then, he has gave the O's several quality starts. In seven starts, he has posted three or less runs in six of those games, and one bad start against the Rangers where he gave up seven through five innings. By the end of 2009, Koji Uehara could be seeing another Rookie of the Year crown if he keeps up pitching the way he has been.