Uehara, expected to be a setup man for the 2013 Sox, instead became closer when both Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey went down with season-ending surgeries. He then embarked on a season for the ages, posting a 1.09 ERA and the best single-season WHIP (0.57, walks plus hits per inning) in major league history. He also converted all seven of his postseason save opportunities while posting a 0.66 ERA, allowing one earned run -- a home run by Tampa Bay's Jose Lobaton in the ALDS. He led all major league relievers with 44 perfect appearances and all AL relievers with 64 scoreless appearances.
"Obviously I like Koji running out of the bullpen in the ninth," Sox catcher David Ross said, "but Eddie's done it before and he did a great job tonight, he threw strikes.
"The main thing is guys get hurt in this game. Guys get banged up. We've got to control the things we can control and that's ourselves. We can't worry about the other team, we can't worry about guys who aren't healthy, guys on the bench not playing. We've just got to go out and win with what we have."
Mujica, who also features a splitter and actually displayed better control than Uehara last season (he walked 5 batters in 64 2/3 innings compared to Uehara's 9 walks in 74 1/3 innings), said he was told before the game that he would be closing Friday night.
It was a dramatic improvement over his Sox debut in the home opener last Friday, when he gave up four hits and four runs in the ninth inning and was charged with the decision in a 6-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. That was the most runs he had allowed in an outing since Aug. 4, 2010, against the Dodgers, a span of 220 appearances. He followed that up Sunday in which he allowed an inherited runner to score, giving up a hit and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. He hadn't pitched since.
"The one game I threw against Milwaukee," Mujica said, "those kinds of things are going to happen. The good thing is my arm is good, everything is good. I've been working on my delivery. I was a little bit excited in my first game in Fenway. I told myself to calm down, take a deep breath. I'm ready to go."
The Sox, mindful that Uehara had logged more than twice as many innings than he'd pitched in any season since coming to the U.S., identified the Venezuelan right-hander as someone with closer's experience who could add depth to the back end of the bullpen.
"When I signed with this team they told me we're going to have a lot of opportunities in the pen," he said. "The job I did last year, [they felt] 'Mujica can do the job if Koji goes down.' Everybody [in the bullpen] is ready to do whatever the role."
Said outfielder Jonny Gomes, whose home run touched off Boston's four-run rally in the sixth: "Koji, he's running a pretty historic career the last five years, but it doesn't hurt to hand off the ball to 30-plus saves last year [Mujica]. We're in a good spot. That's a deep bullpen."