Sveum: Marmol, Fujikawa can work together in bullpen

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Sveum: Marmol, Fujikawa can work together in bullpen

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Dale Sveum was hunting for quail in Arizona when Robin Yount lost sight of his buddy about 50 yards up on a hill. The Hall of Famer shot the bird and drilled the Cubs managers right ear.
There was blood, but Sveum didnt need any stitches. He shrugged it off, like this sort of thing happens all the time. His ability to maintain equilibrium and laugh at the absurdity might be his greatest strength as a manager so far. You need that on the North Side.
The Cubs lost 101 games last season, including 38 after leading and 14 in the last at-bat. They went 15-27 in one-run games and 14-18 in two-run decisions. Theyre probably going to leave Nashville, Tenn., without making any huge moves this week.
To begin making up the difference in smaller ways, the Cubs think Carlos Marmol and Kyuji Fujikawa could work together in the back end of their bullpen.
The Cubs planned to meet with Marmols agent, Paul Kinzer, on Tuesday night at the Gaylord Opryland. General manager Jed Hoyer had already spoken with Kinzer since a trade to the Los Angeles Angels collapsed last month, and team president Theo Epstein has also reached out to Marmol.
We see Carlos as our closer, Hoyer said.
Sveum gave another strong vote of confidence for Marmol while welcoming another potential option for late-game situations. Sveum has watched video of Fujikawa and said the Japanese closer could pitch in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning.
Hes got that kind of stuff, Sveum said. That ability to do things with three and four different pitches just doesnt come around very often. He can setup. He can close, do anything he wants with the baseball. Hes got four quality pitches and can add and subtract with his fastball. (He) can get left-handers out, so he can pitch in any kind of situation.
Fujikawas two-year, 9.5 million deal is pending a physical and reportedly contains options for 2015. The Cubs could allow Fujikawa to acclimate to a new culture and let Marmol feel the heat at Wrigley Field.
If Carlos is on the team, he will be our closer, and I anticipate Carlos being here, Hoyer said. Anyone can be traded at any time. But as we put together our 2013 team, were certainly expecting him to be our closer.

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Joe Maddon's T-shirt slogans can get a little old at times, but the Cubs manager found a new audience in Brett Anderson, who liked the idea of "Be Uncomfortable" after signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the defending champs.

"It's been awesome so far," Anderson said. "That's my running joke – we're a month into it now or whatever it is – and I don't hate anybody yet.

"That's a testament to the group as a whole – and maybe me evolving as a person."

Yes, Anderson's sarcasm, social-media presence and groundball style fits in with a team built around short-term pitching and Gold Glove defense. The if-healthy lefty finished his Cactus League tour on Saturday afternoon by throwing four innings (one unearned run) during a 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 13,565 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Anderson will open the season as the No. 4 starter after a camp that has been remarkably low-key and drama-free.

"I'm kind of cynical by nature, but it's a fun group to be a part of," Anderson said, "(with) young guys that are exciting and happy to be here. And then obviously the mix of veterans, too, that are here with intentions of winning another World Series."

To make that happen, the pitching staff will have to again stay unbelievably healthy. Anderson rolled with a general question about how he physically feels now compared to where he's usually at by this time of year.

"Obviously better than last year, because I was walking with a gimp and all that stuff," said Anderson, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back last March. "No, my body feels good, my arm feels good and you're getting into the dog days of spring training where you're itching to get to the real thing."

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

That's assuming good health – manager Joe Maddon sounded unconcerned about Ben Zobrist (stiff neck), Addison Russell (stiff back) and Albert Almora Jr. (stiff neck) – and the Cubs carrying an eight-man bullpen.

Maddon appeared to eliminate one variable, confirming that La Stella has signaled a willingness to go to Triple-A Iowa if necessary, which would normally be an obvious statement, except for last summer's "Where's Tommy?" episode.

"I haven't even thought about it," Maddon said during Saturday's media session at the Sloan Park complex. "It's not an issue. I thought we handled it pretty openly last year and there's been no blowback whatsoever from the players."

Beyond this – La Stella initially refused to report to the minors last July, moved back home to New Jersey and talked briefly about retirement – an American League scout and a National League scout tracking the Cubs in Arizona both agreed that Szczur looks like the superior player.

Plus Szczur – and not La Stella – is out of minor-league options now.

"When you get this kind of a talent, depth-wise, it's a wonderful problem to have," Maddon said. "And then, of course, the rules start creeping in. The rules in this situation would benefit Matt, which is a good thing, because he's a big-league guy that's been riding the shuttle. He's done it in a very stoic manner, and he's been great for us."

La Stella has allies in the clubhouse – Jake Arrieta got a Coastal Carolina tattoo on his right butt cheek after losing a College World Series bet – and goes about his routine in a quiet, diligent manner.

La Stella is not a distraction at all and can hit left-handed and play the infield – two attributes that Szczur can't bring to Maddon's bench.

"Matt Szczur, to me, is a Major League Baseball player," Maddon said. "You're seeing what Tommy can do from the left side of the plate right now. And then it's just a matter of balancing things out. We've already mentioned that some guys on the infield can play the outfield within this group, thus it presents differently regarding what you need."

[MORE CUBS: Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’]

Szczur is hitting .361 with a .994 OPS through 14 Cactus League games and can play all over the outfield. But that skill is diminished when the Cubs already have four established outfielders plus Zobrist and Kris Bryant able to shift from the infield.

Then again, defensive wizard Javier Baez should have the Cubs covered all across the infield in case of an emergency. With the defending World Series champs a week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, we're about to find out if Maddon made his recommendation or had a possible trade scenario or disabled-list situation in mind.

"I love Matt Szczur," Maddon said. "This guy as a teammate – you're not going to get a better one. Nobody's going to get a better one on any team for any reason.

"We haven't decided everything or anything yet. Stuff happens in a very short period of time. He is a major-league baseball player. So we'll just wait a couple more days, see how it plays out. But he's a benefit to any group that has him."