CHICAGO – It didn’t take long for the Cubs to arrive at the intersection of Don’t Panic Way and Wholesale Change Drive.
Conventional wisdom says you don’t blow up the plan after just two games, but Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol aren’t exactly instilling confidence with their outings in the early going
The bullpen duo combined to give away the lead for the second consecutive game as the Cubs fell to 0-2 on the young season despite two strong performances from their starting pitchers.
So what do the Cubs do now?
It’s safe to assume that the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer rebuilding project doesn’t allow for trading to get high-end bullpen help in the opening week of the season. It’s not like the club is in win-now-or-else mode anyway.
“It’s a no panic situation, obviously,” manager Dale Sveum said. “These guys have been here before. It’s a couple of bad innings so far, that’s all that’s happened this season. That’s it.”
For now, James Russell and Rafael Dolis will remain in their regular roles while Wood and Marmol round themselves into form. It might not be what the faithful want to hear, but that’s reality of the situation.
Wood barely pitched five innings in Cactus League play this spring which raised its own super-sized red flags. His issue seems to be a matter of getting in more work. He declined an interview request following the game.
On Thursday Wood had trouble throwing a strike, walking three consecutive batters, including one with the bases loaded to bring home the tying run. On Saturday he retired Steve Lombardozzi on a ground out and struck out Ian Desmond before the floor dropped out from beneath him.
Danny Espinosa tagged him for a home run after a 10-pitch at-bat that included six foul balls. He then gave up back-to-back singles before Marmol took over.
Marmol, on the other hand, looks to be an entirely different reclamation project altogether. His velocity seems fine, but he lacks pitch location, movement on his breaking ball and the confidence to get the job done.
“My slider; I can't grip my slider right now,” Marmol said. “I think it's going to be fine. … I don't know what it is. I can't get my slider [going].”
He didn't retire a single batter, giving up a walk, a two-run single, an RBI double and another walk.
It’s clearly déjà vu after blowing 10 save chances last season, but when asked if things were repeating themselves after giving up the go-ahead run Thursday, he fired a terse “Next question.”
There were more boos Saturday just as there were Thursday, and last season for that matter, but Marmol didn’t have a problem with fan reaction.
“I deserved that,” Marmol said. “I had the opportunity to get out of the inning.”
For the time being, there is nothing to do but pat both veterans on the back and wait for them to round into form.
“Those two guys have done it before and they know that tomorrow is another day,” said starter Matt Garza, who lost a chance at a victory when the bullpen blew his lead. “We’re real confident those guys are going to bounce back and get back on track. They’re going out there to try to help you win the ballgame. Some days they have it and some days they don’t. So you just keep plugging away. Those two guys are mentally tough so they’ll be all right.”