Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Cubs' Fujikawa ready if Marmol not

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MESA, Ariz. - Cubs' pitchers and catchers don't start official spring training workouts until Tuesday, but the team's newest late-inning relief ace, Kyuji Fujikawa, already has put in three days worth of bullpen work at Fitch Park.

``Yeah, I'm ready,'' he said with a smile -- in English, before his interpreter had a chance to translate.

Meanwhile, $9.8-million closer Carlos Marmol had little reason to say much of anything with a smile on Saturday - much less in the state of Arizona, where he's not expected to arrive until Sunday night.

Already the object of trade efforts early in the offseason, Marmol's status as closer was brought into question again in December when Fujikawa - the former Japanese All-Star closer - was signed to a two-year, $9.5-million deal.

Now he goes to spring training with the cloud of a domestic-abuse allegation dogging him in his native Dominican Republic - the case having been sent to the country's high court on Friday even as team officials put faith in his innocence and as his lawyers filed counterclaims of extortion and blackmail by the alleged victim.

Hard as it is to believe, Fujikawa claims he hasn't heard about Marmol's widely reported issues back home - allowing his interpretor, Ryo Shinkawa, to deliver that answer.

Still, it's almost impossible to think Fujikawa hasn't considered the likelihood of becoming the Cubs' closer in the short term, even after Cubs brass repeatedly insisted Marmol's their ninth-inning guy.

Fujikawa, 32, has averaged 34 saves the past six seasons for the Hanshin Tigers, with more than 12 strikeouts per nine innings and a WHIP under .900.

``The decision's not up to myself but the coaches,'' he said through Shinkawa. ``My job is to get outs. As I do that I think I'll try to make it a tougher decision for the coaches.''

To that end, Fujikawa already has made the commitment not only to arrive in Mesa a week early but also to skip the World Baseball Classic after having pitched for Japan's two-time champion in each of the first two WBCs - though he says that started as a request by the Cubs.

He also has made the decision to leave his family in Japan as he plays out his first American spring training over the next two months.

``To make the successful transition I need to concentrate on baseball,'' said Fujikawa, who has Darwin Barney and David DeJesus to his immediate left and right in the clubhouse to also help.

``Nice guys,'' he says, in English, of the pair.

The earliest days of the transition have gone well so far, he says, maybe in small part because of that ability to pick up at least some English on his own, especially as it relates to dealing with his new pitching coach, Chris Bosio.

``He's nice, but not a lot of Japanese words yet,'' Fujikawa says through Shinkawa.

He shouldn't count on many from his new manager, Dale Sveum, either.

Fujikawa says he's grateful for a new rule this year that allows interpreters to go to the mound with coaches and managers during games. ``It should definitely help,'' he said.

No word yet from Sveum on whether he'll have Shinkawa handle any pitching changes on his own.

``Good idea,'' Fujikawa says in English, smiling. ``Good idea.''

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on February 9, 2013 3:03 PM.

Baez tops Cubs' non-roster list for spring training was the previous entry in this blog.

Say it ain't so: Campy cut from Cubs' roster is the next entry in this blog.

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