Uehara may miss next start

Uehara may miss next start

MIAMI -- Koji Uehara's eventful rookie season may have hit another speed bump on Wednesday, as lingering fatigue in his pitching elbow has put his next start into jeopardy. Uehara asked to be taken out of Tuesday's game after six innings, and he said on Wednesday that he hasn't noticed much improvement.

"Physically, I'm OK," he said through interpreter Jiwon Bang. "Elbow-wise, not perfect. It's like a fatigue."

Uehara, who has already missed time with a strained left hamstring, also said that he's not sure whether he'll be able to make his next start. The 10-year veteran of Japan's Central League has worked to a 2-4 record and a 4.05 ERA in his first 12 big league starts, and the Orioles have given him an extra day whenever possible.

Uehara, at 34, doesn't make any bones about getting older and feeling his age. The two-time Sawamura Award winner is signed to a two-year deal, and he wants to make sure he has plenty of baseball left in him.

"I'm not a young guy, so I have to confer with my body," he said on Wednesday. "I know my body very well, but I don't want to jeopardize the team's victory by forcing myself. That's what I have to deal with."

Still, at this point, most of Baltimore's decision-makers say that the Orioles haven't considered pushing Uehara into a relief role. He's in the rotation for now, and he'll remain there as long as his body can handle the strain.

"As far as I'm concerned, he's a starter," said pitching coach Rick Kranitz. "That's what we brought him over here as, and he's a very good starter. There's no question about that. I would love to keep him in the role that he's in. That hasn't come up yet. I think we're getting ahead of ourselves in talking about that."

"We're in a stretch of games where we don't have any days off," added manager Dave Trembley. "What we'd like to do is keep everybody healthy until we get to the All-Star break, and then go from there. It has not been brought to my attention, nor has it been discussed at this point in time, that he does anything other than start."

Trembley went on to say that Uehara won't need an MRI, and he also said that whether the right-hander makes his next start will be completely up to his own pain tolerance.

David Hernandez was pulled after four innings of his start for Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday, and he'll be the backup option if Uehara can't make his next turn.

"That's going to be up to him," said Trembley. "We certainly don't want to put him in a position where we're going to get hurt. But I think he's pitched long enough and knows himself well enough that he'll let us know if he can do that or not. I know last night, after the game, he said that his arm and elbow were fatigued."

Uehara was the one who told reporters he'd pulled himself from the game, but Kranitz has a slightly different recollection. The Orioles had actually considered pulling Uehara after the fifth inning, Kranitz said, and the team also pondered whether it would be feasible to send him back for the seventh.

In the end, Kranitz concurred with Uehara that six innings were enough.

"It was a mutual type of decision," said Kranitz. "His location wasn't nearly as sharp, but he got outs. And that's OK. A lot of guys do that. ... He threw all strikes, and you say, 'How does he scuffle with that?'

"But for him to elevate the ball -- and with a pretty high-powered club like [the Marlins] -- you tend to say, 'Well, you know what? Six innings. You did a [heck] of a job giving up one run without your best.' "

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.