2/15/2014 3:47 P.M. ET
Cubs hope Vizcaino can move past injury
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- One of the pitchers the Cubs are eager to see this spring is Arodys Vizcaino, who has been slow coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. On Saturday, Vizcaino threw his first side session, and manager Rick Renteria seemed impressed.
"The ball came out of his hand pretty easy," Renteria said of Vizcaino, acquired from the Braves in July 2012 in the Paul Maholm deal. "He stayed down in the zone pretty consistently in his 'pen today. He looked comfortable, very fit. I think he looked as good as we would want him to look at this point."
The Cubs do not want to put a timetable on Vizcaino's return, but he is projected for the bullpen when ready.
"Obviously, it's been a long road back," Renteria said of the right-hander, who pitched in the big leagues in 2011 but had a setback last season.
"He's got some skill," Renteria said. "The ball really comes out of his hand easily. His breaking pitches have some bite to them. Even as you're watching him work his bullpens, he has some presence on the mound. His demeanor is very professional."
Bonifacio to join Cubs in Spring Training
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs signed Emilio Bonifacio to a contract on Saturday, and manager Rick Renteria says the versatile player seems like a perfect fit for the National League.
Bonifacio, 28, split last season between the Blue Jays and Royals, batting .243 for the season. He batted .285 with Kansas City. A switch-hitter, he has played for the D-backs, Nationals and Marlins as well, compiling a career .262 average.
"He's added depth -- he can play second, short, third, the outfield," Renteria said. "He's a versatile individual who has played in the big leagues. He gives us an opportunity from many different positions. It gives us depth."
Bonifacio began last season as the Blue Jays' Opening Day second baseman but switched to the outfield to create an opening for Maicer Izturis, and ended up playing seven positions. Last Aug. 14, he was dealt to the Royals, the fourth time he's been traded. On Feb. 1, he was designated for assignment to open a roster spot for the Royals, then was released on Wednesday.
He would bring some speed to the Cubs. Bonifacio swiped 40 bases in 2011, 30 in 2012, and 28 last season combined.
"It's all relative -- many components of the running game have a lot to do with the ability to be a good baserunner beyond just foot speed," Renteria said. "There have been a lot of really good baserunners who weren't exceptionally fast and were able to take 15 to 20 bags a year. But yes, he does bring some speed to the table."
Cubs keeping eye on pain-free Castillo
MESA, Ariz. -- Welington Castillo was busy catching bullpen sessions Saturday, and so far he has had no problems with his right knee, which needed arthroscopic surgery and forced him to end the 2013 season early.
The Cubs will be cautious with Castillo this spring and not overwork him.
"We're going to monitor the innings he's catching, just like anybody who comes off something, especially a catcher," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Saturday. "He's working hard. We were out there this morning, and he was moving fine. We're aware of it, and we'll do what we can to make sure he stays healthy."
Castillo acknowledged the knee had bothered him well before he had the surgery.
"There was a time when it felt a little sore, but what can I do?" Castillo said. "I'm here to play and will try to do all I can to win a game. I don't worry about it. Sometimes you have to play with pain. You're human. You need to prepare yourself before a game and do all you can do to win the game."
Fujikawa shifts focus to return, not Tanaka
MESA, Ariz. -- Kyuji Fujikawa is throwing this spring, and he could be able to pitch in the big leagues by June. But he was not able to recruit Masahiro Tanaka to sign with the Cubs.
Fujikawa and Tanaka were teammates three times in the World Baseball Classic. After 12 seasons in Japan, Fujikawa left to sign a two-year contract with the Cubs in December 2012. But his 2013 season ended after 12 games because of elbow problems, and he had Tommy John surgery in June.
All winter, Cubs fans were giddy over the possibility of the team adding Tanaka, a 25-year-old free agent who eventually agreed to a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees.
Whether Fujikawa talked to Tanaka is unclear.
"I can't really say much," Fujikawa said Saturday. "It's not for me to comment."
Fujikawa said he did not talk to any Japanese players before he signed with the Cubs -- his options included Kosuke Fukudome, who spent three and a half seasons in Chicago.
Instead, the right-hander shifted the focus back to his rehab.
"I can't really say anything about Tanaka, but for myself, I just want to say last year wasn't my real self, and I'm trying to think about myself," Fujikawa said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. "I can only talk about myself."
Right now, Fujikawa is playing catch five to six times a week, alternating between a long-toss day and a light-toss day. He is close to throwing off a mound.
"It was definitely tough while the season was going on and you have to understand you can't be able to contribute; that was the tough part," he said.
Fujikawa knows Cubs fans were interested in having the team acquire Tanaka.
"It's a good thing that everybody was talking about him," he said. "He has a strong heart, so he shouldn't have a problem in New York. He's used to it."
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.