Fujikawa to build up strength in middle innings

Fujikawa to build up strength in middle innings

DENVER -- Kyuji Fujikawa signed with the Cubs to be the closer, hoping to continue the role he had for 12 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan. But his efforts were delayed last season when he needed Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

On Wednesday, Fujikawa appeared in his first big league game since May 26, 2013, and he faced three batters in the sixth. It was a first step.

The question, though, is will the right-hander be a closer again?

"I can't rule it out," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said, "but we have guys who continue to develop and have been used in that role."

The Cubs will not use Fujikawa in save situations for now as he continues to build up arm strength. Hector Rondon has taken over the closer duties, replacing Jose Veras, who struggled, was injured, and was eventually designated for assignment. Rondon is 14-for-18 in save situations.

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.