By Vinnie Duber
It’s been a week of firsts for Kyuji Fujikawa.
The Japanese import is just 10 games into his first Major League season, and in that span he’s picked up his first save, his first blown save, his first win and now his first trip to the disabled list.
A day after the latest collapse by a Cubs closer, Fujikawa is heading to the 15-day disabled list with a muscle strain in his right forearm. The Cubs brought up reliever Rafael Dolis from Triple-A Iowa to fill Fujikawa’s spot on the roster.
According to Fujikawa, the injury showed up a couple games ago, and he admitted to manager Dale Sveum that he had adjusted his arm angle to avoid discomfort.
The injury comes just one day after Fujikawa blew his first save opportunity since being named the Cubs’ new closer last weekend. With the Cubs leading 2-0 in the ninth, Fujikawa allowed the Giants to score three times and take the lead. Thankfully, for the Cubs, they scored twice in the bottom of the inning to walk off with a 4-3 victory and give Fujikawa his first big league win.
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In the end, Fujikawa explained his decision to head to the disabled list and put himself on the shelf for two weeks as precautionary in nature, not wanting to risk worsening the injury.
“It’s a long season, and being in an important role with the team, I think if it’s not helping the team and hurting them, I think it’s better to make that decision,” Fujikawa said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa.
Fujikawa said he has experienced the same injury one or two times earlier in his career. He said that in the past it has taken about 10 days to recover.
The question for Sveum and the Cubs now becomes who will close games.
“It’ll probably just come down to all the matchups and what happened earlier in the game,” Sveum said.
The likely candidates are James Russell and Shawn Camp, names mentioned when Sveum made his first closer switch last weekend, removing Carlos Marmol from the job and installing Fujikawa. Sveum said it would be unlikely that Marmol would return to his old job.
“I don’t think I’ll use Marmol right now,” Sveum said. “I think that’ll be on down the road if anything like that happens. Right now I just want to keep him in the role we talked about a few days ago. I’m not going to change that.”
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What about Dolis? The 25-year-old right-hander has made three appearances this season with Iowa, facing 11 batters and allowing just one run. This after appearing in 34 games for the Cubs last season, going 2-4 with a 6.39 ERA. Could the latest addition to the Cubs’ roster be in the mix for the team and their ever-evolving closer situation?
“Well, I’m sure he’s very capable, but I don’t think I’m going to do that to him,” Sveum said with a smile. “He’s been throwing the ball well. His last three or four outings in the spring went very well, and he’s been throwing the ball great in Iowa, throwing strikes and being very efficient. We’ll start him out easing him into a role, but I don’t want the young man to be closing any games right now.”