SAN FRANCISCO — Koji Uehara walked off the field with an athletic trainer in the middle of the seventh inning on Tuesday night at AT&T Park, leaving the Cubs with another question about their bullpen and who they can trust in October.
The Cubs rebuilt and reshaped a deep, versatile bullpen to get back to the playoffs and avoid the kind of meltdown the San Francisco Giants experienced in last year’s National League Division Series. After a sloppy 6-3 loss, the Cubs were still evaluating the stiffness that Uehara has been feeling on the right side/lower part of his neck for several days now.
“No, not at all,” Uehara said through a translator when asked if he’s concerned.
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Uehara — who notched the final out in the 2013 World Series for the Boston Red Sox — has been a different pitcher during his age-42 season before the All-Star break (2.73 ERA in 33 appearances) and after (5.40 ERA in nine appearances).
The Cubs already held back Hector Rondon (stiff back) against the Giants and hope the right-hander will be ready to go for Wednesday afternoon’s series finale. Justin Wilson also hasn’t distinguished himself yet since coming over from the Detroit Tigers in a trade-deadline deal, giving up six hits and three walks to the first 22 batters he’s faced in a Cubs uniform.
Carl Edwards Jr. had just seen his ERA spike from 2.51 to 3.83 after three rough outings against playoff contenders before cleaning up Uehara’s runners-on-the-corners, no-outs mess by getting a strikeout and two groundballs. Uehara walked Kelby Tomlinson on five pitches and then gave up a line-drive single to Pablo Sandoval, setting off alarm bells in the visiting dugout.
“From his very first pitch, I knew something was wrong,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He just looked awkward, the way he walked that first hitter. He never does that. He never misses by that much. Sent out ‘Boz’ (pitching coach Chris Bosio) to talk to him, he said he was fine. And then I could see on the next pitch it was not fine.”