Sometimes on an MLB team, the hardest and most unheralded role is that of the set-up man. While they don’t have the glamour and recognition that a closer does, they often have the even more challenging task of coming in the middle of an inning and putting out a fire and getting some of the biggest outs in a game. One pitcher who has been doing a remarkable job at this assignment is Junichi Tazawa of the Boston Red Sox.
Tazawa first started turning heads in 2012 when he had a 1.43 ERA. In 2013, he had a 5-4 record with a 3.16 earned run average. One could tell that he was tiring a bit during the season because he was asked to pitch so many innings. He appeared to get his second wind in the postseason where he made thirteen appearances and only gave up one run. He made life very uncomfortable for Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers during the ALCS, besting him a few times.
Tazawa has electric stuff and it seems that ever since he had Tommy John surgery, he throws even harder than before. The Red Sox are having some issues right now but the back end of the bullpen is not one of them. Between Tazawa and Koji Uehara, that combination in the bullpen is as solid as any out there.
If a team can have two or three effective relievers coming in during the late innings, that can be a nightmare for the opposing team because they find they may only have six or seven innings instead of nine to do some damage. That is how Boston was able to go on such a great run last year. Hopefully, this trend will continue this season.