File this under the heading of in every cloud there’s a silver lining.
The “silver lining” in this case was Monday’s relief outing by Junichi Tazawa even though the Columbus Clippers beat the Pawtucket Red Sox, 5-3, which broke the home team’s five-game winning streak. Tazawa pitched two perfect innings in relief of starter Justin Germano (4-2). In the process he fanned three batters and threw 18 of 26 pitches for strikes.
“He’s coming back from (Tommy John) surgery (which Tazawa underwent in 2010),” said PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. “Usually the first year back guys try to get their work in and try to get back on track.
“In the second year back their velocity and everything else comes back. That’s probably the telling tale. His stuff looks good. He did a great job when he was up in the big leagues helping (the Red Sox) out. He’s come back here and kind of kept it rolling. He’s done a nice job.”
Nice job, indeed.
Overall, in nine relief appearances, Tazawa has pitched 15 1/3 innings and allowed nine hits plus three walks and has struck out 21. His ERA is a microscopic 1.17.
When Tazawa was with Boston this season, he made five relief appearances encompassing 6 1/3 innings and allowed exactly zero runs replete with zero walks and four strikeouts. That almost begs the question: When, not if, will Tazawa get a one-way ticket to Fenway Park?
“His (velocity) is better than it was last year,” said Beyeler. “I think it’s been maybe 92 … 88 to 92.
“He’s had the consistency to reach back for that when you need it – like 90 to 92 instead of 88.”
Ironically Germano or perhaps Tazawa might have earned a victory if Pawtucket’s defense – which entered this game ranked sixth in the International League (.978 based on only 29 errors in 1,374 total chances) – had not committed two errors, one by shortstop Pedro Ciriaco (who was filling in for Jose Iglesias who was given the day off) and third baseman Nate Spears.
Ciriaco tried to nail Justin Cote who was trying to score from third base in the sixth but instead threw a one-hopper that skipped between the legs of catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Spears was unable to field a hard shot off the bat of Andy LaRoche later in the frame which allowed two runs two score. However, in the seventh, Ciriaco made a superb play on Cote as he ranged far to his right to glove a shot in the hole and fire a strike to first base.
“If we play defense behind Germano we get out of that inning without any runs (Columbus scored five runs, four of which were unearned),” said Beyeler. “(Ciriaco) played in spring training and he played in the big leagues last year with Pittsburgh. He’s got a great arm as you saw on the play he made in the hole. He’s very athletic.
“He threw that one ball away. But that still was a good decision to see that the runner didn’t get a good break. He short-hopped (Lavarnway). You work on the play with the infield in. But you very seldom work on the one-hop play with the infield back where the guy gets a bad read because it’s a one-hop ball. He’s got plenty of arm to throw that guy out.
“I’m sure if we did that 100 times,” continued Beyeler, “he’d probably make a good throw 99 of them.”