Rising star Koji Uehara could be the Red Sox's ace for the World Series

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: If people in Japan are looking for a distraction from their Fukushima woes, how about a little World Series? Fenway Park is just a short distance from our studio, and that's where the World Series is getting underway tonight between the Red Sox and the Cardinals. Sportswriter Masashi Yamazaki is a regular at Fenway Park. Masashi, you cover the Red Sox for sports fans back in Japan. I'm sure you've had your eyes on the bullpen. You're in Boston for a while now, where Japanese ace pitcher Koji Uehara spends most innings. What do you like about the 38-year-old right hander?

Masashi Yamazaki: Very conscientious, you know, throws strikes, dominant against anybody, any team. He pitched 73 games this year. This is the highest for him in his fifteenth professional career. So, that was a surprise.

Werman: Have you met him?

Yamazaki: Yes.

Werman: What's he like?

Yamazaki: He doesn't see, you know that, the future. He looks every single game.

Werman: That's a very zen attitude, to be in the present.

Yamazaki: Yeah. He doesn't see, you know, next week. He only see, you know, if you finish today's game, he's ready to next game.

Werman: Now, contrast that with the other earlier fastball pitcher from Japan, Daisuke Matsuzaka. What's the difference between him and Koji.

Yamazaki: Different type of pitcher. Daisuke needs to pitch, you know, he's a starting pitcher. Koji was a starting pitcher, but he cumbered to bullpen pitcher since 2010. Daisuke needs the time, he needs to warm up. You know, he needs time to warming up, but Koji doesn't need time to warming him up, so it's a big difference.

Werman: What kind of pitches does Koji throw?

Yamazaki: He only has two pitches – fastball and split. He learned to throw the split, I think in fastball last year. It's not easy to control the split, any pitcher, but he can do it. He mentioned he has two or three kind of split, how he wants to move, late movement, split. I think he's still learning, but he already got a high-level split.

Werman: Do you know many Japanese fans who have flown over to support Boston or the Cardinals?

Yamazaki: Japan has a lot of Boston fans because Daisuke played, and this year, Koji is dominant. Also, Tozawa has done a great job.

Werman: Is Koji growing his beard? That seems to be the Red Sox thing to do right now in the postseason.

Yamazaki: No.

Werman: No?

Yamazaki: No. He had a beard, you know, huge sideburns when he played for Texas Orioles, but he shaved last off season. In Japanese culture, Koji's managers don't like a player to have a beard or moustache. That's kind of Japanese culture.

Werman: Here's another thing about Japanese culture that I'm curious about. Do you see more Japanese culture entering American baseball culture? Like, will we be able to buy a Bento box at Fenway in the near future?

Yamazaki: I don't think so. If Fenway does, I'll be happy, but I don't think so. I like hot dogs and pizza and something like that. Especially, we can have clam chowder soup in Fenway. That's huge.

Werman: You gotta love it, right?

Yamazaki: Yeah.

Werman: Final question. Who's gonna win and in how many games?

Yamazaki: It's gonna be good game, good series. But starting pitcher, St. Louis has more and great starting pitchers, but Boston has a much better bullpen. I think the key is the bullpen. My prediction is a four and two, Boston.

Werman: The key is in the bullpen and the key is in Koji. Isn't it?

Yamazaki: Yeah. I think so.

Werman: Sports journalist Masashi Yamazaki. Thank you so much for stopping by on your way to Fenway Park.

Yamazaki: Thank you so much.