FORT MYERS, FLORIDA – A day after arriving at the Boston Red Sox spring training facility for the start of his seventh pro season, Junichi Tazawa happily played catch with fellow Japanese right-hander Koji Uehara on Thursday.
“I’m on track right now,” Tazawa said. “What’s important is that I do what’s necessary each day and all I’m capable of.”
After two straight seasons in which he appeared in 71 games out of the Red Sox bullpen, Tazawa admitted he was not in top form at the tail end of the 2014 season.
“I felt a little discomfort in my shoulder,” said the 28-year-old who said he threw in the bullpen seven or eight times before coming to camp.
The right-hander has a 12-11 record with one save and a 4.50 ERA over 188 big league games over five seasons — he did not pitch in the majors in 2010 after having Tommy John surgery.
Tazawa remains the only marquee Japanese amateur to turn his back on Nippon Professional Baseball, when he left corporate league club JX-Eneos to sign with Boston in 2008. Starting this season at the Red Sox’s home, Fenway Park, he will get a daily reminder of his baseball roots, since Eneos has just signed on as a sponsor of the Red Sox.
“It is because that company existed that I was able to take on the challenge of playing in America,” said Tazawa. “I feel an extreme sense of gratitude and company loyalty.”