Baseball - Baseball-Japan's Uehara eager to repay Red Sox by staying healthy

Dec 18 (Reuters) - Koji Uehara hopes his injury woes are a thing of the past so he can reward Major League Baseball's (MLB) Boston Red Sox for the faith they showed in him, the Japanese right-handed reliever said on Tuesday.

Uehara, who helped the Texas Rangers reach the 2011 World Series, missed over a month of last season with a right lat strain but still posted a stingy 1.75 earned-run average while striking out 43 batters in 36 innings.

"First, I am really grateful for the Boston Red Sox expressing the strong desire to acquire me and giving this new opportunity," Uehara, who signed a one-year contract with Boston worth a reported $4.25 million, said on the Red Sox website.

"Now it's my responsibility to meet their expectation and to give my best performance without getting injured."

Twice a winner of the Sawamura Award as the best starting pitcher in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants, Uehara has spent most of his MLB coming out of the bullpen as a closer and reliever.

The 37-year-old pitcher broke into the majors with the Baltimore Orioles in 2009 and was traded to the Rangers midway through the 2011 season. (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)