DENVER — The roster churn continued on Wednesday as the Cubs designated outfielder Nate Schierholtz for assignment and activated reliever Kyuji Fujikawa from the disabled list.
Schierholtz, a superb defender with a professional attitude, couldn’t build off a career year in 2013 (21 homers, 68 RBIs). He fell into an extended slump this season, hitting .192 with a .541 OPS.
Maybe a contending team will try to catch lightning in a bottle. Schierholtz earned two World Series rings with the San Francisco Giants and will be a free agent after this season.
“He’ll land on his feet,” manager Rick Renteria said before a 13-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. “We tried to allow him an opportunity to get back on track, and it just didn’t seem to happen. But he never wavered from his work ethic. He prepared every day. He did everything you would ask anybody to do, and it just never seemed to click. Maybe a change of scenery will help him out.”
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It’s been almost 14 months since Fujikawa underwent Tommy John surgery. The 34-year-old right-hander had been a decorated closer in Japan, notching more than 200 career saves.
Fujikawa passed the test on Wednesday night, relieving Jake Arrieta with runners on and no outs in the sixth inning. Fujikawa hit the first batter he faced, induced a double-play ball and got Justin Morneau, Colorado’s No. 3 hitter, to fly out to left field.
Fujikawa had appeared in only 12 games since signing a two-year, $9.5 million deal with the Cubs. The guaranteed portion of that contract expires after this season. Through an interpreter, he repeatedly declined to say how long he wants to pitch or where he would like to play next.
“I don’t think that’s something I should get into right now,” Fujikawa said. “My job right now is to do the work that’s ahead.
“That’s something about the future. You can’t really say.”
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The Cubs once thought Fujikawa would be their shutdown closer, but now he will be eased back into lower-leverage situations. Renteria had mentioned Fujikawa’s diminished velocity (87-89 mph) during his rehab assignment at Triple-A Iowa.
“You don’t really know until you get out there on the mound if it’s back or not,” Fujikawa said. “It’s kind of hard to say.”
It was hard to tell if Fujikawa was being cryptic, or got caught off-guard with the questions, or something got lost in translation. But if he wants to go back to Japan — or prove himself in the majors in 2015 — he’s not saying.
“I don’t know how people look at it, but I’ve been working hard throughout. It’s hard to talk about the future,” Fujikawa said. “I’m not really thinking about that. I don’t have time to think about that. This is the major leagues. You can’t play with a thought like that in your mind.”