Has a reliever ever been promoted after such a hideous performance in his previous outing? On Apr. 6, Chicago Cubs setup man Kyuji Fujikawa entered the eighth inning of a 5-1 lead against the Atlanta Braves. Despite finishing the inning on 23 pitches, Fujikawa surrendered three earned runs on four hits and one walk. 5-1 was suddenly 5-4 heading into the ninth inning.
Less than 18 hours later, Fujikawa—and his 11.57 ERA—were recognized as the Cubs’ closer. Carlos Marmol lost his job after he surrendered solo home runs to B.J. Upton and Justin Upton. For Marmol, those homers led to his first blown save and a 6-5 win for the Braves. He exited that game with a 27.00 ERA and 4.80 WHIP.
At age 32, many fans viewed Fujikawa as the closer-in-waiting. In 12 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of the Nippon Professional Baseball League of Japan, Fujikawa had 220 saves and 102 holds. The hope was that Fujikawa would’ve taken over closer responsibilities once Marmol became a free agent following this season. That meant Marmol had to survive this season, not get counted out after five games.
What can fans expect from the new closer? After three career MLB appearances with one bad outing, there’s not enough of a sample size to evaluate how he’ll respond to this promotion. Hopefully, his Apr. 6 outing was a fluke. Manager Dale Sveum accredited it to Fujikawa not having his split-fingered fastball. Let’s hope that isn’t a regular occurrence.
One thing is certain: Fujikawa can’t do worse than Marmol. And it’s worth trying something different than attempting the same failures over and over again. Albert Einstein would agree.