Hirokazu Sawamura is Fulfilling Expectationsby Jamie Gatlin April 26, 2021 1 comment
Last season the Red Sox pitching staff posted a 5.58 ERA. As a result, Chaim Bloom was busy in the offseason improving Boston’s pitching depth. One free agent he brought in was Hirokazu Sawamura. The Japanese native signed a two-year deal with the Red Sox in February that included an option for the 2023 season after spending 10 years in Japan. So far, in 2021, he has been one of Boston’s most reliable arms.
In Sawamura’s first nine appearances, batters are only hitting .182 against him. He has only allowed one home run in that span and has the third-lowest ERA of all Red Sox relievers. So far this season, the Red Sox bullpen has rebounded from a rough 2020 campaign, and Sawamura has been a key piece.
Hirokazu Sawamura, Ridiculous 93mph Splitter. 😯
h/t everyone pic.twitter.com/RAgbxBDvDW
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 2, 2021
In the first month of the season, most of Sawamura’s appearances have come in low leverage situations. However, on Friday night, he was called into a crucial situation. With Boston clinging to a 3-2 lead, the Mariners best hitter in Mitch Haniger stepped to the plate with two runners on base. Boston’s righty was able to strike out Haniger and then pitched a scoreless inning to earn his first MLB win. As the Red Sox beat Seattle 6-5, Sawamura set the tone for the bullpen.
Sawamura’s clutch performance showed that he is becoming more comfortable in the majors. In his last two appearances, the Red Sox righty has struck out five batters. He has not allowed a hit in that span, and his signature splitter has been more effective. Although the Red Sox have struggled in their last two series, Sawamura has excelled.
Additionally, Sawamura has shown good control at the MLB level. He has walked five batters this season and one over his last five outings. The 33-year-old has also only allowed more than one hit in one appearance. With each outing, his off-speed pitches have improved and made him harder to hit.
As the season progresses, Sawamura should get more chances in high-leverage situations. Darwinzon Hernandez was one candidate for that role, but he has posted a 5.14 ERA in eight games this season. If he continues to struggle, then Sawamura could see his role expand. The Japanese native could also fill the closer’s role on days that Matt Barnes needs rest.
While the 2021 campaign is far from over, Sawamura has shown the impact that he can make. As the Red Sox look to end their postseason drought, he will continue to be an important piece.
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