Feels so good to be back home after an extra long spring training and then a seven-day road trip to begin the regular season.
We will get settled in at Wrigley Field over the next week and a half with three different clubs coming in. The Brewers arrive banged up but are always a challenge (they have lost five in a row, so the Cubs are seemingly catching them at a good time). Then the defending World Champion Giants fly in for the weekend, followed by the Texas Rangers. Yes, a mid-April interleague series (bizarre, isn’t it?).
The closer situation grabbed most of the headlines last week and one reason it will continue to be a topic is that I expect the Cubs to play a lot of tight games this season. This is not an explosive offense that will blow out too many teams, so many of the Cubs’ leads this year will likely be small in the later innings. Kyuji Fujikawa is the man in the 9th for now and everyone is hoping he grabs the job and keeps it. He was excellent at it in Japan, but now tries to make the adjustment to the major leagues here. I like his experience, his command and his splitter. He’s a different type of pitcher than Carlos Marmol, who was fastball/slider exclusively. Fujikawa pitches more vertically (four-seamer up, splitter down) in the strike-zone, which brings a totally different look. Let’s also hope Carlos Marmol can get straightened out.
There is still a good relief pitcher in there somewhere and it’s his job and the Cubs’ job to find that guy again.