Neftali Feliz is the closer, but given his velocity issues after returning from Tommy John surgery last season, there’s nothing wrong with having a backup.
Fujikawa is backup.
He was mainly a setup man with the Chicago Cubs in two brief seasons but now recovered from Tommy John surgery, Fujikawa adds to a young bullpen.
“I think with Kyuji at the same token with his experience and ability he can pitch on the back end,” Rangers president/GM Jon Daniels said on a conference call Tuesday. “You’re going to need multiple guys over the course of the season that have the ability to pitch late in a game. We’re just trying to pick up the bullpen a little bit.”
The Rangers also have Robbie Ross Jr., who wrestled back and forth in the starting rotation, along with Tanner Scheppers, who just started to throw on flat ground recently as he recovers from arm troubles, as potential mainstays with Feliz.
Spencer Patton, Roman Mendez, Phil Klein and Alex Claudio are other young pitchers who expect to give manager Jeff Banister an opportunity to mix and match in his bullpen, if they should make the roster.
Of course, the Rangers could return lefty Neal Cotts to the team, but as the offseason continues a reunion seems less likely.
This latest addition comes with risks because you just don’t know about a pitcher once he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Some pitchers return fine, good as new. Other pitchers are never the same.
Feliz’s velocity was great some days, so-so on other days. During the season he spoke of needing to pitch almost every day to build arm strength so that blazing fastball he once had regained its power.
Thanks to Brooks Baseball's charting of pitches, we can see that Fujikawa's velocity was higher before the surgery, which is natural. Last season, Fujikawa's fastball averaged 91.4 mph, lower than his pre-Tommy John surgery velocity of 93.3. The sinker and cutter were basically the same in terms of velocity.
“It’s a lot better than it was before the surgery,” Fujikawa said of his arm strength. “Earlier in the (2013) season when I joined the Chicago Cubs I hurt my arm and it lingered a little bit. But it feels a lot better now than before I had the surgery.”