Fujikawa in, Marmol out as Cubs’ closer


Mar 29, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher

Kyuji Fujikawa

(11) pitches during the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It’s official. The Marmolcoaster is out of order.

Following Saturday’s walk-off loss at the hands of the Braves’ Upton brothers, the Cubs have stripped Carlos Marmol of his closer role, just five games into the 2013 season – a full month before he lost the job in 2012 – according to Paul Sullivan on Twitter. Japanese rookie Kyuji Fujikawa will handle the ninth inning duties for now, despite struggling in the eighth inning of last night’s contest.

“We’re definitely going to talk about it now,” Sveum said regarding changing closers after the game.

Marmol has seen his numbers decline over the course of the past several seasons – really since he departed the setup role following Kerry Wood‘s decline. The right-hander is due roughly $10 million this season, which has prompted many Cubs fans to call for his outright release – something that would be both unnecessary and wasteful. Marmol thrived in the setup role, posting his best numbers in 2007 as the team’s eighth inning man, going 5-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 59 appearances (69.1 IP). He walked only 35 batters, a mere fraction of his numbers from last year, when he walked 45 men in 55.1 IP.

His erratic control and what Cubs management deemed to be an over reliance on his slider led to an increase in the usage of his fastball. (Note: Both of the Upton home runs in the ninth inning last night came on fastballs). For the time being, it seems likely that Marmol will be working closely with pitching coach Chris Bosio, as he attempts to right what many see as a sinking ship. With the full-blown rebuilding effort underway, the Cubs must have a sense of urgency in re-establishing his trade value, while also not forfeiting wins over the course of this season.

The move was first reported by Paul Sullivan (via Twitter).

Fyujikawa was dominant, well – more than dominant really, in Japan posting a minuscule  1.36 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 5.43 K/BB ratio. Despite his struggles in Saturday’s game, in which he allowed three earned runs in the eighth inning, Marmol seemingly forced the Cubs’ hand on this move, after struggling mightily for the third consecutive outing. Should he struggle in the role, as well, look for Sveum to go with either left-hander James Russell or right-hander Shawn Camp in the future.

UP NEXT: Chicago looks to avoid the series sweep at Turner Field this afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 p.m. Jeff Samardzija (1-0) will toe the rubber opposite Braves’ Opening Day starter Tim Hudson (0-1).