The decision was announced by Boston manager John Farrell during an appearance on MLB Network Radio, according to MLB.com’s Jason Mastrodonato.
MLB Network Radio analyst Jim Duquette confirmed Tazawa’s new role via Twitter:
Mgr John Farrell just told us he'd like to use Tazawa as closer and keep Koji in the 8th @mlbnetworkradio— Jim Duquette (@Jim_Duquette) May 7, 2013
The switch to Tazawa, who had served as a setup man so far this season, was necessitated by the team losing two closers to the disabled list during the past two days.
Andrew Bailey, who leads Boston with five saves, was placed on the disabled list Monday with sore biceps.
Joel Hanrahan, who is second on the team with four saves, prematurely left Monday’s game against the Minnesota Twins because of arm discomfort. He was subsequently placed on the disabled list Tuesday with a right forearm strain.
A staff report by ESPN Boston quoted Farrell on his radio appearance talking about his closer plans while his two incumbents are on the mend:
I think what we'd love to do is close Tazawa. We'd keep Koji [Uehara] in that eighth-inning role that he's been in. We just got [Craig] Breslow back to us yesterday and before the game we put Bailey on the disabled list who had done a great job in the closing role as well…
Tazawa has a little bit more fastball which, whether I'm siding to the traditional approach with a little bit more power late in the game, that's there. So, right now that's the initial approach that we'd take to closing things out.
The 26-year-old right-handed Tazawa is 2-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 16 relief appearances this season. He has struck out 18 batters and walked just three in 14.1 innings, without a save.
A starter earlier in his career, he converted to a reliever role following Tommy John surgery in 2010. He has one major league save in two career chances.
To complete the reshuffling of the pitching staff, the Red Sox also announced that left-hander Felix Doubront was being moved to the bullpen, and prospect Allen Webster was recalled to start Wednesday’s game:
Webster is slated to start tomorrow night's game. LHP Felix Doubront will be available in the bullpen beginning tonight.— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) May 7, 2013
It’s unknown how long Tazawa will remain the closer.
ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reported that Bailey’s MRI showed only inflammation, which could make for a quick recovery. The right-hander is eligible to return as soon as May 14 if his arm bounces back as hoped.
A WEEI.com staff report indicated Hanrahan has inflammation and a strain in his forearm. He will need rest before being re-evaluated. Although it’s not believed he has structural damage, it’s unknown when he may be able to return.
This will be the veteran right-hander’s second trip to the disabled list already this season as he was just activated on April 30 following a stint caused by a hamstring strain.
Boston’s bullpen is experiencing a major overhaul, but sliding Tazawa so quickly into the closer role is evidence of the unit’s depth.
If the injured pitchers can bounce back quickly, this will likely be a temporary move for Tazawa. In the meantime, he has been thrust into the spotlight and given a chance to show he can handle the new responsibilities.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference