Kyuji Fujikawa, who has been on the DL since April 13 with a right forearm strain, returned to the mound on Sunday for the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Fujikawa pitched one scoreless inning and did not give up a hit, but did walk one batter while striking out two. The righty threw 21 pitches, 11 for strikes, and was reportedly in the low 90s with most of his pitches.
Overall, I would say this is a good first step in the return of the Cubs closer. He was a bit wild, but that is not too concerning at the moment because he has been out for a while. His stuff still seems to be there and that is the important part right now. I think we can expect to see him return soon.
The question is, does Fujikawa go right back in to the closer role when he returns? With Carlos Marmol‘s early season struggles, the newcomer took over the ninth inning role for the Cubs. Since he has gone to the DL, Kevin Gregg has done a very admirable job in the closer role.
With the trouble that the Cubs have had in late inning situations before Gregg, I think that Fujikawa will return to a setup role when he is ready to pitch in the majors. That being said, if Gregg struggles, Fujikawa will surely be the next guy in.
Another Cubs rehab stint takes place on Monday when Matt Garza is expected to start for the Iowa Cubs.