If you’ve paid attention over the first part of this season, the Cubs’ bullpen has been pretty bad and got even worse when Kyuji Fujikawa got shelled in a couple of appearances and then was put on the disabled list. Today, ESPN Chicago put up a blog suggesting that the Cubs probably should have put Fujikawa on the DL to start the season, but forgot to for whatever reason.
The Chicago Cubs, who were rained out Wednesday for a second time on this homestand, all but admitted a mistake in allowing reliever Kyuji Fujikawa to start the season in the bullpen instead of the disabled list. Fujikawa pitched in five games giving up eight hits and six runs despite feeling pain in his elbow.
“He dealt with this at the end of spring training,” general manager Jed Hoyer said on Tuesday. “We thought the time off at the end of spring would get him right and it never really did. Possibly this should have been done at the end of spring training going into the season, but we thought he was ready to go. Obviously he didn’t quite get there.”
This all but suggested that the Cubs knew that Fujikawa had a problem at the end of spring training, yet decided to risk aggravating an injury anyway. The kicker:
“It was pretty obvious to everyone, his command wasn’t there,” Hoyer said. “And really that’s his strong suit … when a guy starts losing that you start to wonder what a guy is covering up.”
Based on the scouting reports when Fujikawa was first signed, he should have had good control, he had good stuff, and this stuff should have translated well to the majors (or at least one hopes so). But if even the general manager says it’s “pretty obvious” that command isn’t there, and that this should be a tell-tale sign that something was wrong…why didn’t they send him in for a random MRI? Why didn’t they decide to take it easy? What’s the deal here? Game-by-game stat lines don’t seem to be available on the internet, but overall Fujikawa didn’t have a bad spring. There was one or two games in spring when he went a bit wild but got out of a jam. Usually that goofy control could be attributed to Arizona air, the small sample size of spring training or the tendency of pitchers to “work on stuff” during practice games. But you have to consider that the Cubs probably were paying attention at that point…hopefully.
We could probably attribute the forced use of Fujikawa to some kind of desperation, where the Cubs knew that the bullpen was probably going to be bad unless they had a good anchor at the tail end of games with James Russell and Fujikawa, along with a Carlos Marmol who hopefully didn’t suck. There is some need for the Cubs to appear competitive out of the gate, but the front office has been pretty transparent about not shortchanging the future by trying to snag a few marginal wins here or there. They were forced to put guys like Matt Garza and Scott Baker on the DL to start the season. You still have to wonder why they wouldn’t do the same with a relatively expensive investment in Fujikawa.
The Cubs as an organization have much more information than we, the blogging fan, do. They should know about the overall health status of their players, right? But more and more it seems like random, possibly preventable, injuries that require DL stints are cropping up for these Cubs. Theories could include hiding a guy on the DL while they work out a mechanical issue (something they could probably do with Marmol), but the MLB Players Association would likely frown on that. The factors could also include poor facilities (more so at Wrigley Field than in Arizona) and a poor medical/training staff. The Cubs are working towards the former, and like they did with all levels of the organization, if Theo Epstein feels that there’s a problem with the training staff, he’s probably going to gut the staff and hire new guys who are more likely to keep players healthy.
Whatever the case, the Cubs have to figure this injury bug out or else the major league product will resemble the Daytona Cubs if guys keep hitting the DL. In the case of Kyuji Fujikawa, the situation seemed very preventable.