(MCT) — NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Cubs continue to decline public comment on their signing of veteran Japanese League pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa — only because he has not yet passed his physical, which is expected Wednesday — but they will be getting a legitimate bullpen closer.
"Yes, he can be a closer in the major leagues," one Japanese League team executive from an opposing team said Monday at the winter meetings.
However, the executive, who has seen Fujikawa pitch extensively for the Hanshin Tigers, also says the 32-year-old right-hander "has lost some speed off his fastball."
"He could throw 96-97 (miles an hour)," he said. "He basically (uses) a fastball and split-finger (pitch). But he also has other pitches, a slider and curveball."
Fujikawa saved 41 games and compiled a 1.40 earned-run average for the Tigers in 2011 and saved 24 games with a 1.32 ERA last summer.
So will Fujikawa — who will be guaranteed $9.5 million for two years — be the Cubs' closer over incumbent Carlos Marmol?
"Carlos is our closer," Cubs President Theo Epstein said Monday. "We're trying to deepen our bullpen if we can."
That doesn't mean Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer won't trade Marmol, as they almost did earlier this offseason.
World is calling: Volunteers are starting to come forward to play for their countries in next spring's World Baseball Classic and it always includes some oddities.
For instance, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo could play for Italy, even though he was born and raised in Florida. The Cubs also could play part of the spring without shortstop Starlin Castro, who is expected to play for the Dominican Republic.
Several Sox will play, but not Jake Peavy, who pitched in the first WBC in 2006.
The U. S., managed by former Yankees skipper Joe Torre, will announce its roster Jan. 16. Torre's pitching coach is Hall of Famer and former Cub Greg Maddux.
"I was happy that Greg accepted being the pitching coach because he is probably closest to what's going on now with pitchers, and he certainly has known over the years how to get in shape, what he needed to do to get in shape for the season."
Slow go: The only major free agent to sign Monday was catcher Mike Napoli, who went to the Red Sox for $39 million over three years.
The Napoli signing could free up switch-hitting incumbent Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia for a trade, perhaps to the White Sox for pitcher Gavin Floyd.
The Hall call: The Hall of Fame added three new members from the pre-World War II era Monday, including Chicago native and former Cubs manager Hank O'Day.
O'Day will enter the Hall along with former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, who acquired Babe Ruth, and Deacon White, a 19th century star, July 28 in Cooperstown.
While he will be recognized on his plaque as a 30-year umpire, O'Day began in baseball as a pitcher, managed the Cubs in 1914 and later served as a scout. He was chosen to umpire the first modern World Series in 1903.
A 16-member panel of Hall of Famers, executives and media elected the three from an original list of 10.
Extra innings: The Brewers are willing to sign ex-Cub Ryan Dempster for two years, but he is holding out for three. ... Former Cubs catcher Geovany Soto was re-signed by the Rangers for one year, $2.75 million. ... Angel Pagan re-upped with the Giants for four years and $40 million. The Cubs traded him in 2008 to the Mets for minor leaguers Corey Coles and Ryan Meyers. ... Former Dodgers first baseman James Loney signed with the Rays. ... Former Cubs starter Jason Marquis re-signed with the Padres. ... Former Cubs farmhand Bobby Scales was named director of player development for the Angels. ... Fired by the Cubs, Jimmy Bank was named traveling secretary of the year Monday at the winter meetings.