04/03/2013 6:14 PM ET
Cubs ink Sweeney, Murphy to Minor League deals
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- The Cubs signed outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who was released by the Red Sox, and infielder Donnie Murphy, who was let go by the Brewers, to Minor League deals, and both were to report to Triple-A Iowa.
It was good news for Sweeney, who lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Sweeney, 28, batted .217 in 21 games this spring with the Red Sox, and was released on Sunday.
A left-handed hitter, he's played for the White Sox, Athletics and Red Sox, and has a career .280 average over seven seasons.
Sweeney announced his signing on his Twitter account:
So pumped to get this opportunity with the cubs. I know I have made a lot of Midwest people happy. Looking forward to a great 2013 season!- Ryan Sweeney (@RyanSweeney12) April 2, 2013
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said the organization lacks left-handed hitters.
"He's always been a quality hitter," Sveum said of Sweeney. "He doesn't hit a lot of home runs or anything like that, but he's always been an on-base guy, doesn't strike out much."
Murphy batted .239 in 24 games this spring with Milwaukee, and has a career .205 average in 244 games with the Marlins.
"He's that hard-nosed utility-type player who will catch the ball wherever he plays," Sveum said. "He hasn't had a whole lot of at-bats in the big leagues. He did swing the bat OK in the Minor Leagues. He kind of strikes out a little too much for that role. He's a guy you can rely on defensively. He's a little gamer-type guy."
Fujikawa watches friend Darvish's near perfect game
PITTSBURGH -- Cubs pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa watched Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish come one out away from throwing a perfect game on Tuesday against the Astros.
"He's a good pitcher and I think he'll have opportunities in the future as well [to throw a perfect game]," Fujikawa said Wednesday through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa.
Fujikawa said he didn't send Darvish a congratulatory message, although the two are close. They trained together in the offseason for one week in Japan before coming to the U.S. for Spring Training.
"He's a guy who always has high goals for himself," Fujikawa said of Darvish. "It's good for me, too, to play off of that as well."
It was a fun game to watch, Fujikawa said.
"He's a good pitcher," he said in English.
Despite struggles in opener, Marmol remains closer
PITTSBURGH -- Carlos Marmol is still the Cubs closer, and pitching coach Chris Bosio would like to see the right-hander get back in a game as soon as possible.
Marmol was pulled in the ninth inning of the season opener Monday against the Pirates. He struck out the first batter, then hit a batter, gave up a RBI single, and walked another before he was lifted.
"He's the closer," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Wednesday. "We've talked, and he knows he's got to throw strikes. ... When the starter goes eight [innings], you're going to do whatever you can to save that lead."
Jeff Samardzija threw eight scoreless innings, and Kyuji Fujikawa got the final out for the save in his first U.S. appearance.
"It's just one game," Sveum said, trying to downplay any closer controversy. "We had the opportunity to get matchups in there when Marmol didn't have his fastball or slider, but it isn't going to affect anything right now. You just play nine innings."
Last season, Marmol got off to a rough start, posting a 5.61 ERA in the first half, but finished strong, compiling a 1.52 ERA in his final 30 games. Bosio said Marmol was aggressive with his fastball, but his command wasn't sharp.
"That's the guy he knows he's capable of being, and that's the guy we're hoping he'll be," Bosio said. "The only way to find out [if he's back on track] is to get him right back out there."
Wednesday won't be easy. It was cold on Monday, and it was even colder Wednesday at PNC Park.
"It was a little chilly for the players, especially holding a baseball," Bosio said of the conditions on Opening Day. "Hey, it's cold. We get it. But be aggressive in the zone as best you can. He competed, he was frustrated, but at the same time, relieved because we won the game.
"The bottom line is getting wins right now," Bosio added. "I don't care what the score is, how we do it. We're trying to get wins to build momentum. It would've been nice, and I know Carlos wanted to have a 1-2-3 inning, but it didn't happen, and [James] Russell came in and picked Carlos up, and Fujikawa came in and picked Russell up. It was a great win for Opening Day for us and a guy who made a great start. ... I thought it was a good team effort all the way around. Carlos did get a big out there as Russell did and Fujikawa did."
Marmol did say after the game he was surprised to be pulled.
"In a perfect scenario, you'd love for it to go smooth and we win that game, 3-0, but baseball doesn't work like that," Bosio said. "There are things that happen along the way. Bottom line right now is winning games. There are going to be some hiccups along the way, whether it's getting a bunt down, a ground ball, a popup, a throw from the outfield, a throw from the infield or pitchers throwing strikes. We've got to be able to overcome those things. Good teams overcome those things and win games."
• Cubs pitcher Matt Garza, on the disabled list with a strained left lat, was expected to join the team in Atlanta on Friday and start throwing off the mound.
Garza has been limited to playing catch on flat ground since he first felt the discomfort in his side Feb. 17 in a live batting practice session. The good news is Garza has had no problems with his right elbow, which limited him to 18 games last season.
• Cubs manager Dale Sveum was pleased with the defensive effort Monday, pointing out that shortstop Starlin Castro showed "maturity" on some plays that he might not have last year. First baseman Anthony Rizzo and second baseman Brent Lillibridge also made good plays.
• The Indians claimed Minor League right-handed pitcher Robert Whitenack off waivers. Whitenack was designated for assignment to make room on the Cubs' 40-man roster for infielder Alberto Gonzalez, who was added when Darwin Barney had to be placed on the disabled list.
Whitenack, 24, was 7-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 11 starts combined in 2011 at Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, then had to be shut down with right elbow problems and underwent Tommy John surgery. Last season, he was 1-6 with a 5.96 ERA in 15 games at Daytona.
• Carlos Villanueva, who will make his Cubs debut on Saturday, starting against the Braves, threw a simulated game on Tuesday, an off-day for the team.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.