Fujikawa needs Tommy John surgery
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As much as the 219 saves and 1.77 ERA in 12 seasons in Japan wowed, so did one other stat about Kyuji Fujikawa.
He posted zero major injuries.
But the reliever's durability didn't hold up in the major leagues.
After an MRI revealed a rupture of the UCL in Fujikawa's right elbow, the Cubs announced Wednesday that their Japanese import will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. Fujikawa had been placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday for the second time this season.
"It's the first big injury of my career," the first-year Cub said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. "I'm just trying to look (ahead) and am going to try the best I can to come back stronger."
Fujikawa went on the disabled list April 13 with a strained right forearm and 12.46 ERA in five games. When the right-hander returned, he pitched better, posting a 1.17 ERA in 7 innings (7 appearances). But he felt discomfort on his first toss to the Reds' Joey Votto in the ninth inning Sunday and had to leave the game.
Fujikawa braced himself for the bad news.
"It's my style to always have that worst-case scenario in mind," he said. "I gave it (my) all, and I don't have any regrets."
Fujikawa signed a two-year contract with a vesting club option for 2015 in December. He finishes his abbreviated first season as a Cub with 2 saves and a 5.25 ERA in 12 innings (14 strikeouts, 2 walks). He put up scoreless outings in 9 of his last 12 appearances.
"When healthy, and definitely coming back from the DL (the first time), I think I gained confidence that I was able to pitch against these (major-league hitters) and be at their level," he said.
Fujikawa chose not to get specific regarding how and when he initially injured his elbow. The Cubs viewed MRIs of Fujikawa's elbow before signing him, and the images showed no damage.
"(For) a pitcher, this is a possibility for anybody out there," Fujikawa said of the injury. "It happened to me this time, but right now I just need to look forward and try to come back stronger."
When and where Fujikawa's surgery will be performed is yet to be determined.
"I'm here in the States now," Fujikawa said. "I'll talk it over with the training staff, the doctors and everybody involved here, and come up with a decision."
Fujikawa, who turns 33 in July, is likely looking at, at least, a full year of recovering time.
"We've been pretty conservative building him back (since his first stint on the DL) and hadn't pushed him to go two innings yet," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "He was throwing the ball well, and his walk-to-strikeout ratio was impressive. I feel the guy we saw at the beginning of the year wasn't him. He's a guy who has good command of his fastball, and when that didn't happen, something was wrong.
"The guy we've seen since he came off the DL was more of what we were expecting. The timing is disappointing, and we're confident we'll get a very good pitcher back next year."
The wounded pitcher sounded confident he'll be back on a mound.
"I think this surgery has a high-success rate, and I believe in that," Fujikawa said. "I'm sure it's going to be a long process for the rehab, but I'm willing to work through it and try to come back strong."
Right-handed reliever Alex Burnett, claimed off waivers from Baltimore on Monday, made his Cubs debut against the White Sox on Wednesday, pitching a scoreless ninth inning with 1 hit allowed.
Burnett, 25, began spring training with Minnesota, before being claimed off waivers by Toronto on March 29. The Blue Jays designated him for assignment on April 10 and Baltimore grabbed him.
Headed in the right direction: A win today in the finale of their two-game home series with the White Sox will give the Cubs a season-best four-game winning streak. They've won three straight three times this season.
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