MESA, Ariz. -- If the Chicago Cubs are going to trade Carlos Marmol sometime over the next five months -- as most believe they will -- closer-in-waiting Kyuji Fujikawa is showing he has the stuff to take over the end-of-the-game role.
Fujikawa had his most impressive outing on Saturday in Cactus League action as he sent the Cleveland Indians down in order in his one inning of work, striking out two along the way.
“That was easily the best he’s thrown,” manager Dale Sveum said Sunday morning. “There was a lot of life on the fastball as well as the velocity. He threw a couple great cutters and elevated when he wanted to.”
Fujikawa is new to the league so it remains to be seen if hitters will figure him out once they see more of him, but the Cubs will cross that bridge when they come to it. His cutter isn’t exactly Mariano Rivera-like, but it’s good enough.
“He throws it hard,” Sveum said. “He throws it 88-89 mph. That’ll play anywhere.”
For now, Fujikawa will be a one-inning guy. The only question is, what inning will he pitch come April?
Rusin's spring progress
Lefty Chris Rusin had a rough go when called up from the minors last season, but his last two starts in Cactus League play have been solid. The Cubs lost 9-2 to the Indians on Saturday but not because of Rusin. He threw three shutout innings.
“He faced a lot of left-handed hitters,” Sveum said. “Great cutter. Made a good hitter in (Nick) Swisher look bad two different times ... He didn’t have a whole lot of non-competitive pitches in those three innings at all.”
Rusin might have a spot in the bullpen to win come April. Matt Garza and Scott Baker won’t be ready for opening day so Rusin could join James Russell as left-handed options, though Hisanori Takahashi could be that guy if the Cubs want Rusin to start games in the minors.
Junior Lake was scratched from Sunday’s game with an issue in the back of his right shoulder.
Sveum liked the approach Javier Baez took on Saturday when he hit with a man on second and none out. Baez said he was trying to hit to the right side to get the runner over.
“That’s probably why he hit the home run,” Sveum said.
Sveum isn’t pleased with his team’s offense. The Cubs scored three runs or less in six of nine games this month going into Sunday’s action. That’s not good in the hitter-friendly Arizona climate.
“We have to start kicking it in,” Sveum said. “The core players will start playing quite a bit.”
The Cubs say Garza is progressing from his lat injury, which has prevented him from playing this spring. The team will sit down on Monday to figure out a short- and long-range plan for him in regards to pitching again.