The mantra coming out of Cubs camp at the winter meetings is that Carlos Marmol is still the closer.
Team president Theo Epstein said as much Monday, when the meetings got into full swing in Nashville.
General manager Jed Hoyer reiterated it Tuesday while field manager Dale Sveum seemed to keep all options open.
The reason it's an issue at all is because the Cubs this week are expected to finalize a two-year deal with Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa. The deal, pending Fujikawa passing a physical exam, is worth a guaranteed $9.5 million over two years with options that could carry it into a third.
The Cubs also tried to trade Marmol to the Angels this fall, but the deal never happened because the Cubs had health concerns about the pitcher they were to get back: Dan Haren, who signed Tuesday with Washington.
So if the Cubs finalize the deal with Fujikawa and keep Marmol, they'll have two potential closers.
During his scheduled session with the media Tuesday, Sveum talked of possible roles for Fujikawa.
"Well, I think he can fill any kind of role," Sveum said. "He's got that kind of stuff. Those numbers and that ability to do things with three and four different pitches just doesn't come around very often. So he can set up, he can close, do anything he wants with the baseball.
"He's got four quality pitches and can add and subtract (velocity) with his fastball. Yeah, I mean, he can pitch in the seventh, pitch in the eighth, pitch in the ninth, he can get left-handers out, so he can pitch in any kind of situation."
Fujikawa has pitched six seasons for Hansin in Japan, with his most impressive stat being a WHIP (walks plus hits per 1 inning pitched of 0.86.
Marmol temporarily lost his job as closer this past season but wound up with 20 saves and a WHIP of 1.54.
Sveum spent time in Arizona with center-field prospect Brett Jackson and seemed to like what he saw. Jackson came up in August and had a hitting line of .175/.303/.342 with 59 strikeouts in 120 at-bats.
"He made huge, huge strides just in his batting practice, completely overhauled a swing, changed a lot of things," Sveum said.
"Using his hands much, much more, staying behind the ball, a lot of things that are going to definitely help him going into the season.
"Nobody can sit here and predict anything, but I think he's got a good base to work with going the rest of the winter and spring training to understand the art of hitting, so to speak."
It's likely Jackson will open the 2013 at Class AAA Iowa.
Garza raring to go:
Ace starting pitcher Matt Garza is expected to start throwing soon. His 2012 season ended in July with a "stress reaction" in his right elbow.
Garza figures to be the Cubs' opening-day starter. If the Cubs are out of contention by the July 31 trading deadline, it's a good bet they'll trade Garza, who can be a free agent next fall.
"You know Garza; he can't wait," Sveum told the media. "He can't wait to get back on the mound, and obviously right now he's at baby steps. But right now there's nothing really changed as far as if he would have pitched the last game of the year.
"He would have (taken) the time off and started throwing right about now, and that's what he was getting ready to do. Yeah, I mean, Garza is wound like a top, so he's ready to start going."
email@example.comCopyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.