Cubs

Sveum: Marmol, Fujikawa can work together in bullpen

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Sveum: Marmol, Fujikawa can work together in bullpen

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Dale Sveum was hunting for quail in Arizona when Robin Yount lost sight of his buddy about 50 yards up on a hill. The Hall of Famer shot the bird and drilled the Cubs managers right ear.
There was blood, but Sveum didnt need any stitches. He shrugged it off, like this sort of thing happens all the time. His ability to maintain equilibrium and laugh at the absurdity might be his greatest strength as a manager so far. You need that on the North Side.
The Cubs lost 101 games last season, including 38 after leading and 14 in the last at-bat. They went 15-27 in one-run games and 14-18 in two-run decisions. Theyre probably going to leave Nashville, Tenn., without making any huge moves this week.
To begin making up the difference in smaller ways, the Cubs think Carlos Marmol and Kyuji Fujikawa could work together in the back end of their bullpen.
The Cubs planned to meet with Marmols agent, Paul Kinzer, on Tuesday night at the Gaylord Opryland. General manager Jed Hoyer had already spoken with Kinzer since a trade to the Los Angeles Angels collapsed last month, and team president Theo Epstein has also reached out to Marmol.
We see Carlos as our closer, Hoyer said.
Sveum gave another strong vote of confidence for Marmol while welcoming another potential option for late-game situations. Sveum has watched video of Fujikawa and said the Japanese closer could pitch in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning.
Hes got that kind of stuff, Sveum said. That ability to do things with three and four different pitches just doesnt come around very often. He can setup. He can close, do anything he wants with the baseball. Hes got four quality pitches and can add and subtract with his fastball. (He) can get left-handers out, so he can pitch in any kind of situation.
Fujikawas two-year, 9.5 million deal is pending a physical and reportedly contains options for 2015. The Cubs could allow Fujikawa to acclimate to a new culture and let Marmol feel the heat at Wrigley Field.
If Carlos is on the team, he will be our closer, and I anticipate Carlos being here, Hoyer said. Anyone can be traded at any time. But as we put together our 2013 team, were certainly expecting him to be our closer.

If you can't wait for baseball to be back, take a look at the Cubs' spring training schedule

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USA TODAY

If you can't wait for baseball to be back, take a look at the Cubs' spring training schedule

Set your alarm, there are only three more months till baseball is back.

The Cubs announced their spring training schedule Monday, getting folks all amped up for the 34 exhibition games in February and March.

Spring game action gets started Feb. 23 out in Arizona, with the Cubs taking on the Milwaukee Brewers to kick off Cactus League play. The Cubs' first home spring game at Sloan Park in Mesa comes the next day, Feb. 24.

In addition to a 32-game Cactus League slate, the Cubs will take on the Cleveland Indians in a pair of exhibition games in Las Vegas. That 2016 World Series rematch comes March 17 and 18.

And of course, there will be three meetings with the White Sox, as both Chicago teams play their spring schedule out in Arizona. Those "Cactus Crosstown" games will be played Feb. 27 and March 10 in Mesa and March 16 in Glendale.

Here's the full schedule:

What if Jake Arrieta stays in the NL Central and repeatedly haunts the Cubs?

What if Jake Arrieta stays in the NL Central and repeatedly haunts the Cubs?

Jake Arrieta in a Brewers uniform?

That's not a sight Cubs fans would like to see, but the North Siders' I-94 rivals are apparently keen on trying to add Arrieta, the free-agent pitcher who's been one of the National League's top arms for the past several seasons.

The Cubs have their own decision to make on whether or not they're going to pursue re-signing Arrieta, a guy who over the past three seasons has posted a 2.71 ERA and struck out 589 batters, winning 54 games in 94 starts for a team that won the 2016 World Series and has advanced to three consecutive NL Championship Series.

The downside to losing Arrieta is obvious, as the Cubs would lose a huge part of their formidable starting rotation, but there would be an added downside if Arrieta were to remain in the NL Central and repeatedly haunt his former team.

Given Arrieta's track record, adding him would make sense for any team in the majors, but the Brewers in particular could use a front-of-the-line starting pitcher to boost their chances of besting the Cubs for the Central crown. The Brew Crew staged a surprising threat to do just that in 2017, perhaps proving that their rebuilding effort has yielded fruit ahead of schedule.

But there are questions in that rotation, with Jimmy Nelson expected to miss time next season after having shoulder surgery. Chase Anderson was great last season, and Zach Davies was solid, too. Brewers starters posted an ERA of 4.10 on the season, good for fifth in the NL. The four teams ahead of them, including the Cubs, all made the playoffs. Adding an arm as good as Arrieta's could make the difference in jumping past the Cubs in the Central and getting the Crew to the postseason for the first time since 2011.

And it'd be a plus for the Brewers to make it so Arrieta couldn't shut down their hitters anymore. In 15 career starts against the Crew, Arrieta is 8-4 with a 2.74 ERA. However, they'd surely love to have him call Miller Park home. He's never lost there in five starts, boasting a 2.03 ERA with 30 strikeouts.

There's an argument to be made that Arrieta would be able to seek revenge on the Cubs no matter what team he ends up pitching for, be it an NL team facing off against the Cubs in the playoffs or an American League squad meeting the Cubs in the World Series. After all, as Scott Boras put it, signing Arrieta is a ticket to "Playoffville."

But should Arrieta make the short drive to Wisconsin and set up shop in America's Dairyland, turning the Brewers into a legitimate playoff contender and challenger to the Cubs' grip on the NL Central crown? Well, consider the Cubs-Brewers rivalry cranked up to 11.