Kyuji Fujikawa’s first stint as the Cubs’ closer didn’t last long due to a right forearm strain, but he could get another chance soon.
Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports that Fujikawa threw 32 pitches in a bullpen session today, his second since he was placed on the disabled list earlier this month. While Cubs manager Dale Sveum told Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald that he didn’t look particularly “crisp,” he’s scheduled to throw another bullpen session Thursday and should begin a minor league rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Iowa. He’ll likely need a few appearances before he’s cleared to rejoin the Cubs’ bullpen.
Fujikawa, who came over from Japan this winter on a two-year, $9.5 million contract, allowed six runs on eight hits and one walk over 4 1/3 innings prior to the injury. The Cubs have relied on a closer-by-committee during his absence, with the dynamic duo of Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol notching saves in the past week.
Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is heading to the bullpen, according to comments made by club manager Mickey Callaway on Saturday. As predicted, Harvey doesn’t appear to be taking the news particularly well, going so far as to tell Callaway that the decision has him “at a 10 with being pissed off” and that he’s motivated to prove himself as a starter.
It’s been rough going for Harvey this spring. After missing significant time to a shoulder injury last season, the 29-year-old righty returned to the mound with a lot left to prove. He pitched to an 0-2 record in four starts, issuing 14 runs, four home runs and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings. It’s been a while since the Mets have seen anything better out of their starter — he hasn’t turned in a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015 and hasn’t pitched well enough to earn an All-Star berth since 2013 — and now it appears they’re at the end of their rope.
At this point, the Mets insist that the shift is a temporary one. While Callaway has helped successfully convert several starters to the bullpen, including Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, that’s not the plan for this veteran right-hander. Instead, both the team and Harvey seem to view the change as a way to clear up any mental blocks Harvey may be encountering on the mound. “We know he’s healthy,” assistant GM John Ricco told reporters. “He’s feeling good. Then you get to, is this a little bit of a mental thing, a confidence thing? One of the things we talk about is getting him into the ‘pen, where he can have success in short spurts, get that confidence back and really let it go and get back to being a guy who can dominate the way he’s shown in the past.”
Harvey will be eligible to pitch out of the bullpen on Tuesday, when the Mets are scheduled to kick off their next road series against the Cardinals. As for his replacement, left-hander Jason Vargas will resume his role in the rotation when he comes off the disabled list next Saturday.