CHICAGO -- Two days before the first 10,000 fans at Wrigley Field will receive his bobblehead, Cubs reliever Kyuji Fujikawa said on Thursday that his recovery from Tommy John surgery is going well.
The right-handed reliever, who appeared in only 12 games before undergoing surgery on June 11, is hopeful that he'll be able to contribute to the Cubs next year.
Typical recovery time for Tommy John surgery is 12 to 18 months.
"I think it's progressing well at this point, and hopefully I can come back strong next year and be a part of the team," Fujikawa said through a translator.
Fujikawa, 33, said he's content to not rush his rehab, which is in the very early stages.
Fujikawa was 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA and .239 average against this season, striking out 14 in 12 innings and going 2-for-3 in save opportunities. He was in the closer's role before a strained right forearm landed him on the disabled list in April, but was impressive upon his return, posting a 1.17 ERA in seven appearances.
With closer Kevin Gregg a free agent following the season and no other ninth-inning option on the roster, Fujikawa said he hopes to be the Cubs' closer in 2014.
"That was a goal when I first came to this team, so hopefully I can come back strong and kind of work toward that goal when I am actually back pitching," said Fujikawa, who signed a two-year, $9.5 million deal with a vesting option for 2015 in December.
Fujikawa said he hopes fans hold onto Saturday's giveaway in anticipation of the day he's a ninth-inning regular at Wrigley Field.
"I can't pitch anymore this season, but hopefully I can come back strong next year," Fujikawa said. "Hopefully the fans that received the bobblehead will be happy that they kept it."
Marmol returns to old home with new team, outlook
CHICAGO -- Carlos Marmol returned to Wrigley Field for the first time on Thursday since his July 2 trade to the Dodgers for the opener of a four-game set against the Cubs. The reliever said that while he enjoyed his time on the North Side, he has put that part of his career behind him and is now focused on winning with his new team.
"I've got a lot of good memories," Marmol said of his time in Chicago. "[When] we made the playoffs, that was awesome."
Marmol spent all seven seasons of his Major League career with the Cubs before being traded in his eighth, but he doesn't have any hard feelings.
"At some point, they've got to make a move," Marmol said. "They have to do what's better for the team. I don't mind, though. Tell [Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein] that he made a good move. I'm [with] the Dodgers in first place."
With regard to preparing for a game in the visitors' clubhouse for the first time, Marmol said it felt strange, but he's happy.
"I feel good," he said. "It's a little weird, but, I mean, I've never been in [this] situation before. It's kind of a little different, but I feel great to be here, seeing all the guys, guys that have been playing with me a long time."
Marmol, who posted a 5.86 ERA before the trade, emphasized that he has put his Cubs days -- as well as the first half of the season -- in the rearview mirror.
"The Cubs, for Carlos Marmol, is over," he said. "I'm a Dodger now. I'm happy to be on the Dodgers. ... The beginning of this year is over. Now you've got to think about the second half."
That second half has gone well so far for the Dodgers, who are 10-2 since the All-Star break and were 19-6 in July, propelling them into first place in the National League West. Marmol is excited to be on one of the hottest teams in baseball. At the beginning of the season, he didn't think he'd have the chance to pitch in October.
"No, not even close," he said of the prospect of playing in the postseason.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he understands that there's usually some extra motivation for players facing a former team.
"I think there is," Sveum said. "I've been traded a couple times, and I think you're always motivated. ... It's different when you play the team that you've been traded from."
Marmol doesn't know what to expect if and when he takes the mound in this series.
"I don't know what it's going to be [like]," he said. "I hope I strike out all three that I have to face," he added with a smile.
Sveum sees clutch hitting as unique skill
CHICAGO -- The argument about whether clutch hitting exists doesn't get the same publicity of the sabermetric vs. traditional stats debate, but it is certainly an interesting argument.
Is there really such a thing as clutch hitting? Or is it simply a stroke of BABIP -- batting average on balls in play -- luck?
As far as Cubs manager Dale Sveum is concerned, clutch hitters do, indeed, exist.
"I've been in the game long enough where you see what guys do when nobody's on base, and see what they do when people are in scoring position. It'll be a whole different at-bat," Sveum said. "So there's definitely a difference."
If that's the case, the Cubs lack clutch hitters this season. Chicago is batting .227 with runners in scoring position -- the second-lowest mark in the Majors -- and .231 with RISP and two outs.
But if clutch hitting is a skill, as Sveum believes, it's not one that hitters can hone by spending more time in the video room.
"You can talk all you want about hitting mechanics and everything like that, but it's hard to find that heart rate that handles that situation better than other people," Sveum said. "Sometimes it comes with the more times you're doing it, and understanding your job is hitting a single with men in scoring position.
"Our biggest problem is we want to hit three-run homers with guys on second base instead of just driving a guy in."
• Shortstop Starlin Castro is hitting .292 and has committed only one error in 32 games since his day off on June 25. In the 10 games prior to his breather, Castro was batting .140 with five errors.
• The Cubs entered Thursday with 12 victories against the NL West this season, which already matches last year's total. They are 12-12 against the NL West so far, after going 12-22 a year ago.
• Outfielders David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz are both hitting .339 against the NL West this year, with Schierholtz adding five homers and 15 RBIs.
• The Cubs closed July with a 14-13 record, their first winning month since last July (15-10).
Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyBal9. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.