8/7/2014 9:05 P.M. ET
Fujikawa to build up strength in middle innings
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
DENVER -- Kyuji Fujikawa signed with the Cubs to be the closer, hoping to continue the role he had for 12 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan. But his efforts were delayed last season when he needed Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
On Wednesday, Fujikawa appeared in his first big league game since May 26, 2013, and he faced three batters in the sixth. It was a first step.
The question, though, is will the right-hander be a closer again?
"I can't rule it out," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said, "but we have guys who continue to develop and have been used in that role."
The Cubs will not use Fujikawa in save situations for now as he continues to build up arm strength. Hector Rondon has taken over the closer duties, replacing Jose Veras, who struggled, was injured, and was eventually designated for assignment. Rondon is 14-for-18 in save situations.
Hendricks builds on run with eight strong vs. Rox
DENVER -- Pitching at Coors Field didn't bother Kyle Hendricks.
Hendricks posted his longest outing in his fifth Major League start, leading the Cubs to a 6-2 win on Thursday over the Rockies. It was his fourth straight quality start as he gave up two runs over eight innings.
He saw the Rockies pound Jake Arrieta for nine runs on 13 hits on Wednesday, and knew Colorado came into the game batting .319 at home.
"You try to not think about it," Hendricks said. "With my game, if I throw my sinker down in the zone, it's really hard to hit that pitch out of the ballpark, even in this park. I try to stick to my game plan and keep the ball down, and if it's on the ground, it's not going to get out."
It worked. He retired the first nine batters before Charlie Blackmon singled to lead off the Rockies fourth. One out later, he scored on Justin Morneau's double that left fielder Chris Coghlan had trouble tracking down. Then Nolan Arenado was credited with a single on a ball that shortstop Starlin Castro overran. But Hendricks escaped by striking out Carlos Gonzalez on a 79 mph changeup and getting Corey Dickerson to fly out.
"What he did in this ballpark was pretty good," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He was very efficient, executed his pitches, changed speeds well. He worked through some traffic [in the fourth] and was calm and just did a great job."
Hendricks is only the seventh pitcher to go eight innings at Coors Field this season.
"He carved us up," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of Hendricks. "He's not going to light up the [radar] gun, but it looked like there was a lot of late movement. ... He was jamming guys at 87 to 89 miles per hour, but it was because it was running so late."
Hendricks now has given up four earned runs over his last 28 1/3 innings for a 1.27 ERA.
"His secondary pitches were really effective," Renteria said of the right-hander. "He's a very poised young man, and I think that he's the type of kid who, when he prepares for the test, he knows he'll do well. I hope he's making believers out of a lot of people."
Renteria: Baez will handle Wrigley excitement
DENVER -- Javier Baez has been to Wrigley Field before, most recently last September when he was honored as the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year. But on Friday, he'll be in the lineup and playing in his first big league game there as the Cubs open an Interleague series against the Rays.
Think Wrigley Field will be buzzing?
"I'm sure there will be a lot of excitement," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Thursday. "He's a young man who has been touted for a long time, and rightfully so. He's a very gifted, good looking young player. I think he'll be fine.
"This is a very mature young man, and I think he probably appreciates the support, but I think he has a grasp of being able to separate the nuances of everything that's around him and stay within himself and stay focused on the game," Renteria said. "He's a young man and he'll still have struggles -- he'll have great days, bad days, good days, not so good days. It's all part of the process and that's why he's here."
There were plenty of Cubs fans at Coors Field for Baez's debut on Tuesday, and he didn't disappoint, hitting a game-winning home run in the 12th inning against the Rockies. On Friday, Baez, 21, can expect an even louder reception.
"Probably dealing with all the fan affection will be part of the process also, which isn't necessarily a bad thing," Renteria said. "We all have to keep perspective and keep a good balance in all things."
Baez does like to do extra hitting and will find out quickly that it'll be tough to do because of the lack of batting cages at Wrigley. Renteria said the infielder is developing a routine with hitting coaches Bill Mueller and Mike Brumley.
"He'll continue to develop and hopefully finds a routine and maintains a routine that he's good with," Renteria said.
Report: Cubs claim Hamels off waivers
DENVER -- Just because the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline passed doesn't mean rumors about possible deals have stopped.
There were reports this week that the Cubs had claimed Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels off waivers. This is the time of year when teams put nearly every player on revocable waivers to give them roster and trade flexibility before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline.
Cubs officials would not comment on the reports.
If Hamels was claimed, the Phillies have 48 hours to work out a trade, and if they do not, they are expected to pull the player back from waivers. Hamels, 30, is guaranteed $90 million from 2015-18, and would definitely be a nice addition to the Cubs' pitching staff.
Hamels has a limited no-trade clause, and the Cubs reportedly are one of the teams he would go to. If the Cubs did claim the left-hander, he would not have any veto power over a potential deal.
However, the price for Hamels would be high, and the Phillies most likely would be looking at one or more of the Cubs top prospects in exchange. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein did say this week that they will be looking to add pitching this offseason and next to complement the core of position players in the system; however, the team is not ready to deal any of them at this time.
• Cubs pitcher Neil Ramirez began his rehab assignment on Wednesday, pitching for the Rookie League team in Mesa, Ariz. Ramirez faced five batters and gave up two runs (one earned) on one hit and one walk in two-thirds of an inning, while striking out one.
He was placed on the disabled list July 26 with right triceps soreness, and there is no timetable for his return.
• Felix Doubront, on the disabled list with a left calf strain, threw 88 pitches in a side session on Wednesday and could begin a rehab assignment next week. The Cubs acquired Doubront from the Red Sox for a player to be named on July 30. Doubront was in Denver with the Cubs, and will accompany them to Chicago.
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.