Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Chicago Cubs [Print without images]

Friday, December 7, 2012
Cubs to use Fujikawa as set-up man

By Jesse Rogers

Kyuji Fujikawa
Kyuji Fujikawa takes a look at his new baseball home, Wrigley Field, on Friday.
CHICAGO -- New Chicago Cubs reliever Kyuji Fujikawa has 220 career saves in Japan, but he will start spring training as the set-up man with Carlos Marmol as the closer.

But that doesn't mean things won't change as the season begins.

"I have experience being a set-up guy and also as a closer," Fujikawa said through a translator during a Friday press conference to announce his two-year, $9 million contract that includes a vesting option for 2015. "It's not up to me where I throw. It's up to the manager and the team. I still think I have room for growth as a pitcher. That's what I'm going to be looking forward to, following the orders from the manager and the club."

The Cubs nearly traded Marmol to the Los Angeles Angles earlier in the offseason but that deal fell through. So now they have two potential arms for the end of games.

Fujikawa described his mindset as a closer which isn't that different than a set-up man.

"Mentally, as a closer, whatever it takes I have to get three outs or four outs depending on the situation," he said. "My mindset was to get outs. Even if I had to fill up the bases my mentality was to get outs."

Fujikawa liked the history of the Cubs and Wrigley Field in choosing them over other teams. His agent, Arm Tellem, says the Cubs' rebuilding phase "came up" in discussing his options, but the lure of Chicago was overwhelming.

"I played at Hanshin Stadium which is somewhat similar to Wrigley Field," Fujikawa said. "It even had Ivy in the old days. Hanshin Stadium is known to be the start of baseball in Japan. So that was a deciding factor for me to sign with the Chicago Cubs."

He compiled a 40-23 record with 196 saves with the Hanshin Tigers over parts of 12 seasons in Japan. His desire to play in the major leagues came from seeing other Japanese pitchers have success in the U.S., including Hideo Nomo, whom Fujikawa watched growing up. The Cubs like Fujikawa because he goes after hitters.

"The biggest ability is for him to pitch with his fastball," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "He's not a guy that tricks you. He really comes after guys. Guys that too often rely on trickery can often be figured out quickly."

That could be in stark contrast to Marmol, who has primarily used his slider to get outs, when it was able to stay in the strike zone, although Marmol was better in the second half last season using his fastball.

"Our goal is to have the best bullpen possible," Hoyer said. "You don't have a good bullpen by having one good pitcher throw in the ninth inning. ... (Fujikawa has) done both roles. We know he can do both roles. We look at it as just adding a great arm. We don't worry about the role."

Fujikawa wore 22 in Japan but chose No. 11 with the Cubs.

"I was 22 with the Hanshin Tigers but to have a better career than No. 22, I went younger with two ones. I asked for 11 and luckily it was open."