4/7/2013 1:15 P.M. ET
As new closer, Fujikawa feels up to task
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- When the Cubs signed Kyuji Fujikawa in December, the Japanese right-hander was projected to be the main setup pitcher for closer Carlos Marmol. But on Sunday, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Fujikawa will replace Marmol as closer.
"My job is to pitch whenever I'm asked," Fujikawa said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. "I didn't have a good outing [Saturday]. I'm going to try to go back out there, and it's a long season, I'm trying to make it as positive as possible."
On Saturday, the Braves recorded the first hits and runs off Fujikawa of the season. In his third game, he gave up four hits, one walk and three runs. Pinch-hitter Reed Johnson then hit into a double play to end the inning.
"He gave up some singles and ended up getting the double-play ball on Reed, but it's like what we talk about with [Jeff] Samardzija," Sveum said. "How are you going to pitch without your split? [Fujikawa's] was flat and it wasn't doing anything. Last night, he probably learned a little bit about relying too much on the cutter instead of the velocity and the life he has on his fastball."
On Opening Day in Pittsburgh, Fujikawa picked up the save when Marmol struggled. It's a role the Japanese pitcher is accustomed to, having been a closer in Hanshin for 12 years.
"When I came into this season, my mindset was as the setup guy," Fujikawa said. "Once Marmol's condition gets better, he'll come back. We all have to fight through it."
But Sveum said the job is Fujikawa's.
"I didn't hear that part," Fujikawa said, "but it's one game at a time, and my job is to go out there and do the best job possible to win games."
He talked about having the "responsibility on your shoulders" as the closer. Fujikawa totaled 219 saves and appeared in 562 games in Japan.
"I think it's all about results," he said. "You have to prepare every day like it's the same. You have to have a strong mindset and try to forget about what happened the previous day."
Did Fujikawa ever lose his job as closer like Marmol did?
"No," he said.
Sveum looking forward to Wrigley improvements
ATLANTA -- The Cubs will finally wear their home whites Monday when they face the Brewers in the home opener. It also will be the last home opener before Wrigley Field goes through its makeover.
The Cubs have outlined a five-year, $300 million renovation plan expected to begin after this season.
"It'll turn into, obviously, one of the top venues in the league to play," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the ballpark, which turns 100 years old next year. "Us, getting a new clubhouse and the batting cages and a new dugout and, if the jumbotron [scoreboard] does come into play, now you're turning this place into an unbelievable place to go to work every day for all of us."
The Cubs will finally be able to "keep up with the Joneses," Sveum said. All of the National League Central teams have gotten new stadiums in the last 12 years.
The work was supposed to begin with the home clubhouse and batting cages.
"As far as the last conversation I had a few months ago, it was going to be ready for Opening Day next year," Sveum said. "To start digging that much, hopefully there's nothing in the way, because I think they probably have to work 24/7 to get it done by Opening Day  once the last pitch is thrown this year."
Are there any aspects of Wrigley that he'll miss?
"The clubhouse? The batting cages? No, I don't think anybody can say they'll miss any of that," Sveum said.
Still to be determined is whether the Cubs can play more than 30 night games.
"You don't want to lose that aura about what we have at Wrigley, playing the day games," Sveum said. "When we get back off road games and things like that, it comes in handy to have a night game."
There's a 60 percent chance of rain on Monday in Chicago, which may dampen the season opener festivities.
"I heard the weather is starting to turn for the worse," reliever James Russell said. "I'm looking forward to [the home opener]. My little sister and mom are coming out. I think they've been to every Opening Day. They're keeping the streak going."
• Second baseman Darwin Barney hopes to have the stitches removed from his left knee on Monday. Barney suffered a knee laceration in the final exhibition game March 30 in Houston and is on the disabled list. He has been able to take batting practice and was going to ride a stationary bike on Sunday.
"He's able to bend his knee all the way now," Sveum said. "He's been hitting and taking ground balls straight at him. He'll be ready to go, just guessing five days from now, and be back with us after the off-day [April 15]."
Barney was expected to get some at-bats at Class A Kane County this week.
• Ian Stewart, on the disabled list with a strained left quad, went 1-for-4 on Saturday in Mesa during an extended spring training game. He was the designated hitter, and had no setbacks, Sveum said.
After an off-day Sunday, Stewart was expected to get another four to six at-bats on Monday in Mesa. He could begin a rehab assignment in one week.
• Matt Garza, sidelined with a strained left lat, threw his second bullpen on Sunday. He was not expected to return until May.
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.