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September 1, 2013

Bailey: Without Uehara, who knows where Sox would be?

BOSTON — Starting the season with Joel Hanrahan at closer and Andrew Bailey as setup man, the Red Sox’ bullpen looked strong on paper.

If Hanrahan struggled or suffered any injury, then Bailey, a two-time All-Star closer, could step in and replace him without the team missing a beat.

But things didn’t quite work out that way.

Hanrahan blew two saves and posted a 9.82 ERA in 7.1 innings before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Bailey then blew five of 13 save opportunities and posted a 3.77 ERA before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.

The Red Sox appeared in deep, deep trouble.

But then 38-year-old Japanese setup man Koji Uehara — who the Red Sox didn’t want to pitch more than an inning of work per outing at the start of this season due to his age and having only pitched 36.0 total innings last year — stepped into the role and became a true savior for this team.

“Without him, who knows where we’d be?” said Bailey who is working on the range of motion stage during his rehab right now. “I think this year there’s been a constant group effort, but especially in the bullpen, hands down he’s been the most valuable. You look at somebody like that and it’s like without him, honestly, where would we be?”

Uehara recorded his 16th save in Boston’s 7-6 victory over the Chicago White Sox yesterday. He set the White Sox down 1-2-3 to lead Boston to a three-game weekend sweep of Chicago.

Thrust into the closer role June 21, Uehara has since saved 15 of 17 opportunities and essentially saved the season for the Red Sox.

Your 2013 Sox have had numerous star performers. David Ortiz, John Lackey, Daniel Nava, Dustin Pedroia ... the list goes on and on and on.

But above and beyond all else is Uehara. He is this team’s MVP and the biggest reason the Sox are in first in the AL East.

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