FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox pitching prospect Junichi Tazawa, who was likely to start this season in Triple-A Pawtucket, is dealing with a potential health setback.
The Japanese right-hander flew to Birmingham, Ala., where he had his right elbow examined by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews on Monday.
There is no update yet on Andrews' evaluation.
"He'd been dealing with some discomfort, some tightness, in the second half of last year," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "He went through a normal offseason, didn't have any issues, came into Spring Training, went through every outlined throwing session that we had, and there were varying degrees of tightness or discomfort at different points this spring."
Last year, Tazawa had an impressive first Spring Training for the Red Sox and started the season at Double-A Portland. By August, he had developed to the point that the Red Sox summoned him to the Majors in the middle of a pennant race.
The righty made four starts for the Sox, winning two of them. Most memorable was his victory against the Yankees in a nationally televised Saturday afternoon game on Aug. 22 when he fired six shutout innings.
Tazawa had never pitched in professional baseball before 2009. The Red Sox signed him after scouting him in the Japanese industrial league.
Still on Boston's big league roster in camp, Tazawa has pitched in five Grapefruit League games -- all in the bullpen -- posting a 10.29 ERA.
"In games, his velocity was not quite where it was in the past, and his breaking stuff was not as sharp," said Farrell. "And even in his last bullpen [session], he felt there was a little bit of tightness. I wouldn't say it was further, or getting worse, but as a precautionary [measure], we wanted to send him to see Dr. Andrews and get that evaluation."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.