4/1 Sveum: Marmol’s the closer
Jeff Samardzija looked like an Opening Day veteran, not first-timer. Anthony Rizzo, who didn’t hit a home run in any Cactus League games, launched the first pitch he saw in the regular season out of PNC Park for a two-run blast. And Carlos Marmol was pulled in the ninth and Japanese right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa got the save. The end result: The Cubs held on for a 3-1 win Monday over the Pirates in the season opener and manager Dale Sveum did his best to downplay any closer controversy.
Marmol struck out the first batter he faced in the ninth. But then he hit Andrew McCutchen, who stole second and scored on Pedro Alvarez’s single to center. After Marmol walked Gaby Sanchez, Sveum turned to James Russell, who induced Neil Walker to pop up to to right field. Fujikawa, making his Major League debut, came on to get Russell Martin to fly out to center to earn the save.
“That’s part of the ninth inning,” Sveum said. “Those last three outs are hard to get no matter who’s on the mound. Marmol didn’t really have it today so I went to a couple other guys to get those last two outs.”
Sveum isn’t abandoning Marmol.
“He’s still the closer,” Sveum said. “I’m not making any changes or anything like that, he just didn’t have it today.”
Fujikawa, who was a closer for 12 seasons with Hanshin, is not trying to take Marmol’s job.
“That’s nothing I can control,” he said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. “My job is to get the three outs I’m asked for — three outs, four outs.”
Sometimes, one out.
“Lucky man,” Fujikawa said, in English.
Marmol, who threw 19 pitches, nine for strikes, got a visit from pitching coach Chris Bosio after Alvarez’s single. The closer said he was a little surprised to see Sveum after he walked Sanchez.
“That’s why you need teammates, that’s why you need a team, to pick me up,” Marmol said. “That’s what a team does.”
Did he have problems with his command?
“A little bit,” Marmol said. “I felt fine, though. My slider command was good. … It’s one bad day. It happened on the first day.”
— Carrie Muskat