Kyuji Fujikawa was signed to be Carlos Marmol's eventual replacement as Cubs closer. Now, just 12 innings into his stateside career, the right-hander needs Tommy John surgery.
Fujikawa left his May 26 outing against the Reds with what the Cubs were hoping was a forearm strain — the same injury that cost him a month on the DL earlier this season. Fujikawa told reporters after the outing that he felt a pop in his elbow while facing Joey Votto, though, and an MRI yesterday confirmed the worst.
After being signed to a 2-year, $9.5 million deal this past winter, Fujikawa was quickly thrust into the closer's role when Marmol struggled out of the gate. Outside of two bad outings within the span of a week in April, he's been solid this season, striking out 14 batters in 12 innings and walking just two. Fujikawa landed on the DL following the second of those two nightmare appearances on April 12, but returned with a very strong month of May. In seven outings this month, he allowed just three hits in 7.2 innings, striking out 10.
With Kevin Gregg settling into the 9th inning during Fujikawa's first stint on the DL, Fujikawa had been mostly working the 8th inning since his return. Now, manager Dale Sveum is saying the Cubs will play matchups in the 8th, with Marmol, Carlos Villanueva and Rafael Dolis getting most of the work in that frame. As a whole, Chicago's bullpen has been middle of the pack, with their 3.96 ERA ranking 9th in the National League.
Fujikawa is slated to make $4.5 million this year and next, and the Cubs have a $5.5 million team option for 2015 that automatically vests based on games finished — something that may be unlikely now that he'll miss the next year. In 8 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers, Fujikawa put up a 1.26 ERA in 541.1 innings, notching 220 saves.