Fujikawa's transition begins as Cubs report to camp
Already throwing bullpen sessions, righty focused on baseball, job at hand
MESA, Ariz. -- Kyuji Fujikawa is new to the Cubs, but after just a few days, he realizes he's in the right spot in the Fitch Park clubhouse, lockered between second baseman Darwin Barney and outfielder David DeJesus.
"Nice guys," the Japanese pitcher said in English.
On Sunday, when Cubs pitchers and catchers officially report to Fitch Park, Fujikawa will have his fourth bullpen session since arriving in Arizona one week ago. Players will undergo physicals on Monday, and the first workout of the team's final season at this location will be Tuesday. Position players must officially report in one week, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Feb. 17. The Cubs are moving to a new site in west Mesa in 2014.
More than half of the 62 players expected in the Cubs' Spring Training camp have already been working out at Fitch, including Fujikawa, the former Hanshin Tigers closer who signed a two-year contract with Chicago in December.
"I'm ready," he said, again in English.
Fujikawa is the Cubs' second Japanese player, following outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who was with the team from 2008-11. The two didn't talk about making the transition to the U.S. Major Leagues nor about Wrigley Field. Fujikawa did ask some other Japanese players for advice.
"They all pointed out that it's important to be your own self and not change too much," he said, through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa.
His family is staying in Japan for now.
"To make this a successful transition, I want to concentrate on baseball and make that successful first," he said.
While the Cubs will be monitoring pitchers Matt Garza, who is coming back from an elbow injury, and Scott Baker, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April, they also will be keeping an eye on closer Carlos Marmol, who is dealing with domestic abuse charges filed by a woman in the Dominican Republic. On Friday, Marmol appeared in court in the Dominican. He is expected to be in Arizona on Sunday.
Fujikawa said he wasn't aware of Marmol's legal issues and said he wasn't thinking about taking over as the Cubs' closer at some point.
"The decision is not up to me but the coaches," Fujikawa said. "My job is to get outs, and as I do that, I'll try to make it a tougher decision for the coaches to make."
It may be a little tricky for Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio to communicate with Fujikawa. Cubs manager Dale Sveum admitted he doesn't know Japanese.
"[Bosio] is nice, but he doesn't know any Japanese," Fujikawa said.
Major League Baseball owners approved having interpreters go to the mound with the manager or coach if needed this year.
"From my own perspective, it would definitely help," Fujikawa said.
Maybe Shinkawa will make the pitching changes?
"Good idea," Fujikawa said in English, then laughed.
• This spring, the Cubs will have their second bunting tournament, with a slight tweak. The front office will compete for a spot in the field of 64, and Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, is expected to square off against general manager Jed Hoyer in their first-round match.
• Scott Feldman had his first bullpen session on Saturday at Fitch Park.
• Assistant hitting coach Rob Deer will wear No. 45 with the Cubs, which also was his uniform number with the Brewers from 1986-90.
• The Cubs will hold their organizational meetings Tuesday and Wednesday.
• Anthony Rizzo, DeJesus and Tony Campana were among the position players working out Saturday.
• Outfielder Reggie Golden, the No. 2 pick in 2010, is healthy after suffering a hyperextended left knee in the seventh game of last season at Class A Peoria. He's also one of the early-bird position players in camp. "I'm so excited to be hitting -- every time I take a swing, I'm happy to be back," Golden said. He's also been impressed with how Sveum interacts with the young players. "Every day, he says, 'Good morning, how are you guys doing?' I would love to play for him," Golden said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.