SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- At some point, the Cubs aren’t going to be able to brush off Carlos Marmol's struggles by blaming things like the dry desert air.
So far, though, instead of panic, manager Dale Sveum is going to give his closer the benefit of the doubt.
With the sting of 10 blown saves last season still present, Marmol has now blown leads in his last two Cactus League outings, although neither were in save situations.
That doesn’t mean the Cubs aren’t looking for Marmol to close this season.
“Closers are meant to be closers because they can handle those last three outs,” Sveum said Tuesday, a day after Marmol gave up three runs on two hits and two walks in an inning against the Reds. “It’s not that easy to find people. They might have the stuff, but they don’t have the makeup to get those last three outs.”
The expectation is that Marmol finds that makeup again before the calendar flips to April. He had been working on a minor adjustment early in spring with new pitching coach Chris Bosio to prevent the type of struggles he encountered last year.
“The adjustments are the adjustments,” Sveum said. “But we have to be able to do that out on the mound when we know, 'The first pitch of the inning I fly right open and the ball goes up and away, and I have to get right back on the mound and make that adjustment.' Those adjustments have to be made, but we have to slow it down and be able to do it on the mound.”
Yes, Sveum did go to that time-honored spring training tradition, saying the parched conditions and slight altitude are a pitcher’s worst enemy.
“Breaking balls like his aren’t going to do a whole lot here in Arizona,” Sveum said. “You’re always going to struggle with it, and you’re going to throw it harder and make it spin more and it’s actually a counter effect.
“But I think all along we want him to get his fastball command, [that] is the biggest thing. We know the breaking ball will come back when we head back north. Just mainly getting the fastball, getting work and throwing strikes with the fastball.”
So while Marmol clearly looked flustered by his outing Monday, nobody is going to fret too much about his mental approach. At least not now, anyway.
“He’s been working as hard as he ever has,” Sveum said. “The people that have been around him know that he has been working as hard as he ever has. It’s a confidence thing. Don’t try to crank the breaking ball. It’s not going to work in Arizona. There’s no air here.
“Nobody’s breaking balls really break here, that’s why you see a lot of 15-14 games. There are a lot of fastballs and a lot of breaking balls that don’t break that much. He’s just got to be careful to get frustrated with that.”