TORONTO -- Koji Uehara has had an excellent season so far, and he said there is a reason why.
"I worked out with Yoshi [Tateyama] in the offseason," Uehara said.
Maybe that's why Uehara gave Tateyama a big hug when they saw each other in the Rangers' clubhouse on Sunday. Or maybe it's because they have known each other since playing together 20 years ago at Tokaidai Gyosei High School in Japan.
"He was the super ace and I was a benchwarmer," Uehara said.
That actually was the case even though Uehara had the more successful career. Uehara was an outfielder in high school and only pitching occasionally. He didn't become a full-time pitcher until he went to college, and that's when he developed the talent to be one of Japan's premier pitchers.
Now he and Tateyama are reunited with the Rangers. Tateyama pitched for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan while Uehara pitched for the Yomiuri Giants. Uehara was a starter in Japan and two-time winner of the Eiji Sawamura Award, which is the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award.
The Rangers acquired Uehara on Saturday when they sent pitcher Tommy Hunter and first baseman Chris Davis to the Orioles in exchange for the 36-year-old right-hander who is 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA.
"I'm happy he is here," Tateyama said. "It's a strange feeling. I was with Tommy Hunter when we heard about the trade. We had a good rivalry in high school. He's a good competitor."