Capitals

Cubs finalize $9.5M, 2-year deal with Fujikawa

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Cubs finalize $9.5M, 2-year deal with Fujikawa

CHICAGO (AP) After watching Hideo Nomo, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Ichiro Suzuki, Kyuji Fujikawa determined he's ready for the major leagues.

``When I was still a student, I saw Nomo made it to the United States, and that was a big factor for me,'' Fujikawa said through a translator Friday after finalizing a $9.5 million, two-year contract with the Chicago Cubs.

``Also, Matsuzaka, who is the same age as I am, struggled a little bit, but his challenge really gave me the motivation to come over here, as well as Ichiro challenge to the major leagues, that motivated me to come over.''

The 32-year-old right-hander had 220 saves in 12 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's Central League. He played for Japan at the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics and the 2008 Olympics.

``Facing better-quality hitters was one of my motivations,'' Fujikawa said.

He joins a team remaking its pitching staff. Without a World Series title since 1908, the Cubs went 61-101 this year for their first 100-loss season since 1966.

``Rather than add a high quantity of buy-low guys and hope some quality emerged, we felt like we were in a position where we could add one or two quality bullpen pieces because we have some interesting arms to fill out the rest of the pen,'' Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. ``We were looking for one or two pieces where we felt good about the investment.''

Carlos Marmol, nearly traded to the Los Angeles Angels last month, remains the Cubs' closer as Fujikawa gets used to pitching for Chicago.

``There's going to be an adjustment,'' Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. ``We're crazy to think he's going to go right into the season and have no issues. Things will come up. We know that's a part of it.''

Fujikawa's strikeouts per nine innings decreased from 13.5 in 2005 to 11.0 this year, when injuries limited his innings and strikeouts to his lows since 2004.

``He's not a guy that tricks you. He really comes right after guys,'' Hoyer said. ``Guys who rely too much on trickery can often be guys that the league figures out quickly. Our hope is that because he pitches with his fastball that he'll be able to pitch to a game plan and be able to establish himself.''

Fujikawa will wear No. 11 with the Cubs.

``I was No. 22 with the Hanshin Tigers, but to have a better career than No. 22, I went younger with two ones,'' he said.

Fujikawa gets a $1 million signing bonus, and $4 million salaries in each of the next two seasons. The deal includes a $5.5 million option for 2015 with a $500,000 buyout and the price could escalate to $6 million based on games.

Other new additions to Chicago's staff include Scott Baker and Scott Feldman.

``From Day 1 when I visited here a few weeks ago, I really loved the city,'' Fujikawa said. ``From that day on, it was Cubs, Cubs, Cubs.''

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How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

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USA TODAY Sports

How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

It wasn't supposed to happen.

The Capitals celebrated too hard after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. The Tampa Bay Lightning had been here before. Tampa Bay's roster was deeper. Their goalie was hotter. They had home ice advantage. They had easily won their first two series. Nicklas Backstrom was still injured. Washington wouldn't be able to stop the Lightning's power play.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

For all of those reasons, many did not even give the Caps a chance. Washington overcame every obstacle in their way and was, for the most part, the better team through seven games defeating Tampa Bay to win the Eastern Conference for just the second time in franchise history.

The Capitals showed in their second-round win over the Penguins that these weren't the "same old Caps." They continued to prove that in the conference final when they stunned the Lightning to win Game 1 and Game 2 both on the road.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

When Washington lost the next three, many thought that meant the real Lightning had awoken, but it was the Caps who rose to the occasion in Game 6 and Game 7 where they face elimination as they completely dominated Tampa Bay by a combined score of 7-0.

The Caps now advance to take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. The Knights have lost only three games this entire postseason and will hope to carry that momentum with them into Game 1.

If there is one thing this Washington team has proven, however, it's that you should never count them out.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

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