Results tagged ‘ Kyuji Fujikawa ’
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Baseball is finally back. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, and Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is almost here.
To get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five categories—starting pitching, relief pitching, infielders, outfielders and catchers—to give fans a clearer picture of what to expect when the Cubs break camp and head to Chicago.
Below is a look at the bullpen. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.
After a brutal start to the season and a demotion from the closer’s role, Carlos Marmol seemed to be back near peak form by the end of 2012. In 29.2 innings after the All-Star break, Marmol converted 12 of 13 saves, posted a 1.52 ERA and struck out 39 batters. However, there is speculation he may be traded before the season starts, which would open the door for new Cubs reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, 32, to assume closing duties. The Japanese import, who has closed in Japan, has a variety of pitches but relies mostly on his low-90s fastball and splitter.
Besides Marmol and Fujikawa, James Russell and Shawn Camp are the only bullpen arms who had strong 2012 seasons. However, relievers are the most inconsistent commodities in baseball, and one can never assume that previous success guarantees the same in the future.
There are several names that could step up in the bullpen. Arodys Vizcaino, acquired from the Braves last season, is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Though the Cubs hope he can be a starter in the long run, he could also help as a reliever this season. Jaye Chapman, who showed his change-up could be a devastating out pitch, was impressive in limited duty toward the end of 2012. Players like Alberto Cabrera, Tony Zych (a 2011 draft pick who drew positive reviews in the Arizona Fall League) and former top prospect Trey McNutt could each surprise and end up as important cogs in the late innings.
Plus, with the Cubs’ surplus of starters, pitchers like Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva or Travis Wood could end up spending significant time in the ’pen.
The Cubs introduced the newest member of their relief corps, Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa, on Friday at Wrigley Field. Fujikawa is the first Japanese player to suit up for the Cubs since Kosuke Fukudome, who roamed the Wrigley outfield from 2008-11. In 12 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League, the 32-year-old right-hander went 42-25 with 220 saves and a 1.77 ERA in 692.1 innings pitched. Fujikawa will likely pitch the seventh or eighth inning for the Cubs, as GM Jed Hoyer said Carlos Marmol remains the team’s closer.
The Chicago Cubs introduced Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa Friday morning after signing the righty to a two-year deal worth $9.5 million with vesting options for a third year.
“It’s always nice when a player really wants to be a Cub,” said Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer. “I think he made that very clear, and we’re very happy to have him. He had a wonderful career in Hanshin for the Tigers, and we hope he has a long and wonderful career here with the Cubs.”
Fujikawa, 32, joins the Cubs after pitching all or part of 12 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League. The right-hander went 42-25 with 220 saves and a 1.77 ERA (136 ER/692.1 IP) covering 562 appearances—all but 14 as a relief pitcher. Fujikawa twice led the league in holds (46 in 2005 and 30 in 2006), twice led the league in saves (46 in 2007 and 41 in 2011), and posted a 1.32 ERA or lower in four of the last five seasons. He won the Central League Most Valuable Set-up Pitcher Award in 2005.
“I know that the team is very young,” said Fujikawa through a translator. “I am a veteran. I will try to led the young players, as well, and try to compete to win for the Cubs. I know what they’ve done last year, and hopefully we can do better next year. I’d like to be part of the building process for the Cubs future.”
Fujikawa made his professional debut in 2000 and saw his first run of success in 2005, when he posted a 1.36 ERA in a league-leading 80 appearances. Two seasons later, the Tigers moved him to the full-time closer role. Last year, Fujikawa went 2-2 with a 1.32 ERA and 24 saves in 47.2 innings.
He was a member of Team Japan in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics and also pitched in the 2008 Olympics, but according to Hoyer, Fujikawa will not pitch in the WBC this year.
The Japanese star features a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and complements it with a forkball and a slow curve.
“He’s been known in Japan as a guy who can really pitch with his fastball, which is really important. He’s not a guy who tricks you. He actually comes right after guys,” Hoyer said. “Guys who rely too much on trickery can often be guys the league figures out quickly. And our hope certainly is that because he pitches with his fastball, he’ll be able to pitch to a game plan and be able to establish himself and have a nice run.”
Although Fujikawa ended his Japanese career as a closer, he said he’s happy to pitch in whatever role the team asks of him. Both Hoyer and baseball president Theo Epstein stressed that Carlos Marmol will likely start the season as closer after pitching well in the second half of 2012.
“Our goal is to have the best bullpen possible, and you don’t have a good bullpen by having one good pitcher throwing the ninth inning,” Hoyer said. “[Marmol] goes into the season as the closer. Our goal is to have a seven-man-deep bullpen of good arms, and Kyuji certainly adds to that.”
Former Cubs reliever and MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac (center) joined Brian Kenny and Tom Verducci for on-site reporting from the Winter Meetings.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Here are more Dale Sveum dispatches from the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort, where the halls have been buzzing on this last full day of the Winter Meetings.
• Sveum made it clear the bullpen is getting attention in the Cubs front office. The team already re-signed Shawn Camp, their lone free agent, and may look to add more.
“Upgrading the ‘pen is something we wanted to do. … Whatever happens from here on out—we’re talking to a lot of people, and hopefully things work out. But [Carlos] Marmol is our closer, and we’ve got to get better at the back end. We signed Shawn Camp back, James Russell, so that’s a start. But we have to get better in that seventh, eighth inning.”
Sveum wouldn’t directly comment on Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, though the Cubs’ pursuit of the reliever attracted plenty of Japanese reporters to the manager’s press conference. Fujikawa, a free agent who saved 220 games over 12 years with the Hanshin Tigers, clearly intrigues Sveum.
“I think he can fill any kind of role. He’s got that kind of stuff. Those numbers and that ability to do things with three, four different pitches just doesn’t come around very often. So he can set up, he can close, do anything he wants with the baseball. He’s got four quality pitches and can add and subtract with his fastball. Yeah, I mean, he can pitch in the seventh, pitch in the eighth, pitch in the ninth, he can get left-handers out—so he can pitch in any kind of situation.”
• Sveum spent about a week in Arizona to see Cubs prospects, including highly regarded shortstop Javier Baez, who just turned 20 last week. Many have compared Baez’s bat speed to Gary Sheffield’s.
“Incredible bad speed. Didn’t get to see any results, but the bat speed was pretty good. I didn’t go to his best games. But he had a heck of a minor league season—the combination of the home runs and everything. He was a bigger kid than I thought when I saw him in person. I saw him without a shirt on one day, and I was like, wow, he’s a pretty big kid. But a lot of tremendous, tremendous tools at that age. That kind of bat speed just doesn’t come around at 19 years old.”