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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cubs' Kyuji Fujikawa throws off mound for first time since Tommy John surgery


By on 2/25/2014 09:30:00 PM

Chicago Cubs reliever Kyuji Fujikawa had his MLB debut season of 2013 cut well short because of Tommy John surgery that resulted from forearm strain. Early in the offseason, though, Fujikawa declared that he would pitch in 2014. He is officially listed as due back at some point during the upcoming season, and if he continues to progress at his current pace, then he could make that declaration come true.
By Jblesage, via Wikimedia Commons
MLB.com's Cubs beat writer Carrie Muskat announced on Tuesday that Fujikawa threw off a mound for the first time since his surgery on June 11 and all went well.
The Cubs brought Fujikawa in from the Hanshin Tigers of the Japan Central League, where he saved 202 games since 2007, before the 2013 season to strengthen the bullpen. He took over the closer's role when Carlos Marmol (eventually traded) struggled early. Fujikawa had his problems before landing on the disabled list in April with forearm strain. He returned in May to pitch far better, but the Cubs had signed Kevin Gregg to close by then. Unfortunately, more strain led to his season-ending surgery.

Fujikawa finished the season at 1-1 with 2 saves, a 5.25 ERA, and 1.08 WHIP. He had a 1.17 ERA in his seven games after his first DL stint. He is now in the second of a two-year contract worth $9 million; he also has a club option for 2015 worth $5.5 million.

Fujikawa is one of 22 players officially on a 40-man roster and still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Even if Fujikawa returns this year, the closer's job is not a promise. After losing Gregg to free agency, the Cubs signed Jose Veras, who saved 21 total games for Detroit and Houston last year in 25 chances. His throwing off a mound on Tuesday, though, is a huge step in Fujikawa's quest to return to action in 2014.

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