ST. LOUIS – Junichi Tazawa had received the honor of starting the Futures Game for the World team yesterday at Busch Stadium, but a torrential downpour came along and wiped out Tazawa’s outing.
Tazawa said through interpreter Kiyoshi Otano that a Red Sox official called during the delay of more than four hours and told someone on manager Jose Oquendo’s World Team staff that Tazawa, who was ready to go before the rains came in the middle of the first, should call it a night.
“Everybody is out there playing..I’m very disappointed,” said Tazawa during a 7-5 World Team win over US. “I was ready to go out on the mound, but I couldn’t do it.”
Tazawa (8-5, 2.79 ERA with Double A Portland) did say of getting the starting nod, “I didn’t expect it. I was very honored by it.”
The Sox’ only other representative, Casey Kelly, their No. 1 pick and 30th overall in 2008, pitched the sixth inning of a shortened seven-inning game for the US team and retired the side in order.
Kelly is headed to the Sox minor league complex in Fort Myers where he’ll begin the transition from pitcher to shortstop. The Red Sox had placed a 95-inning limit on his pitching season and Kelly came out of that with flying colors going 7-5 with a 2.08 ERA in 17 starts for Single A Salem and Greenville. Kelly retired Cuban star Dayan Viciedo of the White Sox on one pitch on a liner back to the mound. He also got Carlos Santana to fly out to left field on a 2-1 pitch and got the final out on a liner to left field. Kelly sported a very good curveball.
Kelly said he’s looking forward to switching to shortstop and realizes that he’ll have to make a decision pretty soon on which way to go.
“I’ve felt really good,” Kelly said. “My arm has felt really strong the last couple of outings so I think I’m getting stronger through the season, which is a good sign. This is kind of experimental to see which one is going to be the best. I think after this year I’ll assess pitching and see which way to go.”
Kelly said he’s enjoyed the Futures experience, indicating, “I’ve been super excited to be here. To be in the room with these guys is awesome. To be in the category with these guys is unbelievable.”
Kelly said of his pitching experience, “I went out trying to learn as much as possible in a short period of time from pitching coaches and the other guys. Went out there trying to throw strikes and that really helped me out.”
Kelly believes by this time next season he’ll know which way he’s going to go.
“I think after this year, it’ll be noticeable which side I want to be on. I’m open-minded. You can’t be close-minded in this situation. Anything is possible. It’s definitely a win-win. If I don’t play shortstop. I become a pitcher and there’s no loser in this.”
Kelly, who had a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee to play football, admits he misses that sport, especially when he watched Vols football on television. He said, “I really missed it. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Tazawa, who signed to a $3.3 million major league contract with the Red Sox out of the Industrial League in Japan, could wind up in Boston as a September call-up. The Red Sox have kept him on a very strict pitch count all season.
Asked about coming up to the Red Sox he said, “I’ll be happy if it happens, but it’s more important for me to take care of my business.”
Tazawa’s signing with the Red Sox and passing up Japanese Professional Baseball caused friction between the Sox and the Japanese league and Tazawa found himself caught in the middle. While it appears the 23-year-old righthander takes his share of grief over it when asked whether it concerns him he simply said, “No.” Tazawa is 8-5, with a 2.79 ERA in 16 starts. He’s pitched only 87 innings.