Chicago Cubs: closer

Cubs having trouble finding any relief

April, 14, 2013
4/14/13
8:08
PM CT
By Sahadev Sharma
ESPNChicago.com
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Shawn Camp David Banks/Getty ImagesShawn Camp didn't settle anything in the Cubs' search for a reliable closer.
There are those who believe that any competent reliever can be put in a save situation and succeed. With their play of late, the Cubs are trying to disprove that theory. With two strikes and two down, closer du jour Shawn Camp failed to lock down the game by giving up a solo home run to Hunter Pence to tie things up at seven.

"I've faced (Pence) probably ten times and I've made that pitch a thousand times in my career," Camp said. "It's just a hanging breaking ball and he hits hanging breaking balls. In that situation, it just can't happen, it's unacceptable. It cost us the game."

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Cubs sign Gregg to minor league deal

April, 14, 2013
4/14/13
12:30
PM CT
By Sahadev Sharma
ESPNChicago.com
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The Cubs signed relief pitcher Kevin Gregg to a minor league deal on Sunday.

Gregg was one of the last cuts this spring training with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Gregg saved 23 games and had a 4.72 ERA with the Cubs in 2009. Along with the Cubs, he's spent parts of ten seasons with the Angels, Marlins, Blue Jays and, most recently, the Orioles. He's racked up 144 saves and a 4.13 ERA for his career.

Marmol struggles but keeps his job

April, 1, 2013
4/01/13
5:56
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Carlos MarmolCharles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsCarlos Marmol rekindled some bad memories from last season on Monday in Pittsburgh.
PITTSBURGH -- Despite a near Opening Day ninth-inning meltdown by Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum insists he's still going to finish games.

"He's still the closer," Sveum said after the Cubs' 3-1 victory on Monday over the Pittsburgh Pirates. "I'm not making any changes or anything like that. He just didn't have it today."

The same could be said about his last two appearances in spring training when Marmol struggled with his control. The Cubs were quick to point out he was solid before those struggles but then dismissed his last two games as "just spring training."

Then came Monday.

Marmol entered the game with a 3-0 lead. He struck out the first batter on a 3-2 count, then hit a man, gave up a run-scoring single and then walked the next batter before being pulled.

"Those last three outs are hard to get," Sveum said. "No matter who's on the mound. Marmol really didn't have it today so I went to a couple other guys to get those last two outs."

James Russell and newcomer Kyuji Fujikawa preserved the win but Sveum was lucky he had them available. Starter Jeff Samardzija conserved his pitch count in the middle innings allowing him to go eight innings -- which meant Sveum's set-up men were available as Marmol started to struggle. That won't always be the case.

"That's what teammates do," Marmol said. "They pick you up."

Marmol said he "felt good" on the mound and classified his outing as "struggling a little bit."

This is old news for Cubs fans. Marmol struggled in April last season but was able to right the ship in the final few months of the season. But the end of his spring brought back those bad memories. Still, the Cubs stuck by him -- despite nearly trading him to the Los Angeles Angels this past offseason.

"He's a veteran getting ready for the season," president Theo Epstein said before the game. "Performance wise you could pick apart his last couple outings (of spring)...but the reality with him we wanted to see signs that the guy from the last three and half months of the season was still there. And if you look beyond the performance at the end I think you saw a lot of those signs."

Not Monday.

Move Marmol to pave way for Carpenter?

July, 16, 2011
7/16/11
2:15
PM CT
By Sahadev Sharma
ESPNChicago.com
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Chris CarpenterAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhAt least one scout believes Chris Carpenter is better suited for a set-up role.
Relievers are a crap shoot. In one season a guy can be lights out, the next he'll struggle to record an out. That's why when you find a shut down closer, you hold on to him for dear life.

However, unless your name is Mariano Rivera, even that so-called shut down closer will hit some bumps in the road.

With the Cubs 18 games under .500 and many veterans expected to be dangled before the trade deadline, the question must be asked if it would be worth it to the Cubs to gauge the market for struggling closer Carlos Marmol. If trading Marmol means the Cubs would acquire a top prospect who could help in 2012 and beyond, it might be the right move.

Of course then the issue then becomes who would fit into the closer's role for the Cubs in the future. Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood will be used in that capacity for the time being, but if Marmol is moved, Marshall and Wood may be holding the position for Chris Carpenter.

Carpenter, who was recently sent down to the minors to make room for Carlos Zambrano, has an electric fastball that every team covets for their closer. It's that second pitch that manager Mike Quade is looking for Carpenter to use effectively with more regularity.

"You see enough quality once in a while in [his slider] to be really excited," Quade said. "He's not consistent, but one out of every five or six he'll snap off where you'll go, ‘Woah, that's like unhittable stuff.' When he can make that three or four out of six, look out."

Of course the Cubs once felt that pitchers like Kyle Farsnworth and David Aardsma would be closers of the future. While both have had moments of success in the big leagues as a closer -- Farnsworth is currently filling the role for the Tampa Bay Rays -- neither has proven to be capable of filling the spot on a long-term basis.

One NL scout familiar with Carpenter had a different outlook for his future than Quade.

"If you twist my arm, he's more of an eighth inning guy for me," said the scout. "He's always been a guy that's slower to adjust and he's never missed as many bats as you'd expect for how great his stuff can be. I think he will settle in and be a good late inning guy, but if I'm a manager, I feel better about him in the seventh or eighth rather than the ninth."

Marmol is suffering through some rough times right now. But Quade is confident he can get back to the dominant closer he showed he could be in 2010 when he converted 38 of 43 saves and racked up an eye-popping 16.0 K/9.

"It's a lot of fun to dominate the way he has for several years and it's no fun when you're not," Quade said. "It'll probably be tough on him a bit, but he'll get through it. He'll be the same guy at some point that he has been for some years."
Carlos Marmol
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesMike Quade is confident Carlos Marmol will regain top form, but should the team move Marmol to make way for Chris Carpenter?

Quade indicated that Marmol's mechanics are off which is leading to a drop in the quality of his breaking ball as well as less velocity on his fastball, adding up to disaster when he's on the mound.

Marmol went through similar struggles in 2008 when he was the primary setup man for the Cubs. Prior to that season's All-Star break, Marmol made 12 appearances giving up 15 runs (11 earned) while walking 10 batters in 9 1/3 innings pitched.

Quade said this year's struggles are a bit different because in '08 his stuff was good but it was primarily command that was the issue. This season, he seems to have a dip in his stuff, and while he is issuing some walks, he's giving up more hits than he normally does as well. His .229 batting average against this year isn't horrible, but considering that his previous season high since becoming a staple in the Cubs bullpen was .170, it's definitely something to watch.

Marmol has lasted only three innings in his last six outings, giving up eight runs, seven walks and allowing all three runners he's inherited to score. What's most concerning about Marmol's recent struggles is that he has no strikeouts in that period.

"An alarm goes off, they're not swinging and missing the way they were," Quade said. "Normally that points to the depth of his breaking ball, the quality of his breaking ball because that's where he gets most of his strikeouts. He's just got to get that back, that's all."

Despite that fact that Marmol has been moved out of his closer's role, Quade reiterated that the move is expected to be just temporary.

"He's a closer," Quade said. "He's getting paid as a closer, he's got closer stuff. He's going through a rough time right now. "

It's clear the Cubs believe Marmol will regain the form that made him one of the most dominant strikeout artists in the history of the game. At 28, Marmol is still young and signed through the 2013 season. It's never an easy decision to trade a proven commodity to go with the unknown. However, for a team that's clearly looking towards the future, the Cubs' best bet may just be to move Marmol and take a gamble on Carpenter.

Marmol confident in role as Cubs closer

February, 24, 2010
2/24/10
10:34
PM CT
By Associated Press
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- Carlos Marmol 's dilemma a year ago was this: Should he pitch in the World Baseball Classic and miss valuable spring training work while he was trying to win the closer's job with the Chicago Cubs?

Marmol pitched in the WBC for the Dominican Republic and Kevin Gregg got the closer's job at spring training. After Gregg faltered, Marmol finally landed the role he wanted in mid-August and finished 11-for-11 in save opportunities. Overall he was 15-for-19 in 79 appearances.

Now that Gregg has left for Toronto, the job is all Marmol's.

"I don't have to fight for being the closer. Just be ready in the ninth inning, the eighth inning. Whatever," Marmol said.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jason Hammel
WINS ERA SO IP
2 3.05 16 20
OTHER LEADERS
BAE. Bonifacio .358
HRW. Castillo 3
RBIS. Castro 9
RE. Bonifacio 11
OPSA. Rizzo .914
ERAJ. Samardzija 1.29
SOJ. Samardzija 22