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As new closer, Fujikawa feels up to task

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.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.
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