NEW YORK — In the final week of March, closer Koji Uehara was unsure of when he would return from a strained left hamstring.
Over the weekend, that answer became clearer and it is the news that Red Sox fans waited to hear.
Uehara pitched the fifth inning for Class A Greenville and allowed one run and three hits to six hitters. He threw 14 of 17 pitches for strikes but, more importantly, he did not feel any soreness or other pain.
That’s the report that manager John Farrell received, and before Sunday’s 14-4 loss against the New York Yankees, he said that Uehara would be activated for the home opener against the Nationals on Monday.
Hamstrings can be tricky situations but it appears the Red Sox lucked out during Uehara’s second career DL stint with a hamstring injury.
Uehara was injured during conditioning drills on March 17. He made a pair of bullpen sessions after getting injured and the soreness remained, leading to him getting put on the DL.
Uehara’s injury impacted the Red Sox in a few ways. It led to Edward Mujica being the closer and in his first save opportunity Friday, he gave up a game-tying solo home run to Yankees third baseman Chase Headley with two outs in the ninth.
The Red Sox wound up exhausting their bullpen in a 19-inning game that saw relievers throw a combined 206 pitches.
As for Uehara, when he gets in a game, he will look to continue a standout career with the Red Sox. He is 10-6 with 47 saves and a 1.75 ERA to go along with 181 strikeouts in 138 2/3 innings in two seasons with Boston.
On Sunday night in New York, the Yankees pounded the Red Sox 14-4 when Alex Rodriguez’s three-run double highlighted a seven-run bottom of the first inning.
“I think overall it was good to see one through nine come out and get some good at-bats,” Rodriguez said. “I think it was a game that we needed.”
Besides hearing cheers from fans in New York, Rodriguez finished his week back from last year’s 162-game ban by batting .300 (6-for-20) with a .417 on-base percentage and six RBIs while batting in five different spots in the lineup.
On Sunday, Rodriguez batted sixth, and with the bases loaded, he pounced on a first-pitch fastball from Boston right-hander Clay Buchholz (1-1) and turned it into a three-run double that gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
“Spring training was nice, I got a lot of work in,” said Rodriguez, who added a base-loaded walk in the sixth inning Sunday. “Anything I do will be a surprise to a lot of people and sometimes surprise me.”
New York manager Joe Girardi said, “He’s been really good. That’s a huge hit in the first inning for us to get us going to give us a big lead.”
From there, the Yankees coasted on a night when they scored double-digit runs for the first time since Aug. 8 and collected 16 hits, raising the team batting average from .193 to .233.
While the Yankees avoided starting 1-5 for the first time since 1989, the Red Sox were unable to begin with a 5-1 record for the first time since 2006.
Boston left fielder Hanley Ramirez drove in two runs with a sacrifice fly and a solo home run. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts added a two-run double for the Red Sox, who gave up 14 runs in New York for the first time since Oct. 3, 2012.
Coming off seven scoreless innings in the season opener against Philadelphia, Buchholz allowed a career-high 10 runs (nine earned) and nine hits over 3 1/3 innings. It was the most runs by a Red Sox starting pitcher since Jon Lester allowed 11 on July 22, 2012, against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Buchholz also compounded his problems by not backing up some plays.
“That’s a mistake on my part,” he said. “(I’m) pretty frustrated when things are going that way.”
The Red Sox seemed as if they might make the outcome closer by scoring three times in the fourth, capitalizing on Tanaka’s location struggles and shoddy New York defense.
Designated hitter David Ortiz scored on Ramirez’s sacrifice fly, and Bogaerts produced a two-run double after Drew was charged with a throwing error on a potential double-play grounder by right fielder Shane Victorino.
The Yankees added three more in the bottom half on Gardner’s single and a sacrifice fly by first baseman Mark Teixeira that knocked out Buchholz.