Results tagged ‘ Carlos Marmol ’

4/7 Fujikawa replaces Marmol as closer

Carlos Marmol is no longer the Cubs closer, and Kyuji Fujikawa is taking over the job. Cubs manager Dale Sveum met Sunday with both pitchers to give them the news. The Cubs had a 5-1 lead Saturday against the Braves but lost, 6-5, when Marmol served up game-tying and game-winning home runs in the ninth to B.J. Upton and Justin Upton, respectively.

Is there a chance Marmol could reclaim the job this year?

“Yeah, there’s a chance,” Sveum said. “Hopefully, Fujikawa takes it and runs with it and does a great job and we don’t have to deal with it. Marmol’s going to pitch in less stressful situations and get his confidence back. You still have seven guys in the bullpen, so he’s obviously going to pitch and end up pitching quite a bit in situations.”

Marmol wasn’t going to give up on getting the job back.

“I’m not going to put my head down,” he said. “Everybody knows what I need to work on, locate my pitches. That’s the thing I need to do.”

The Cubs did have in-house options such as Shawn Camp and James Russell. Fujikawa signed with the Cubs after being the closer in Hanshin for 12 seasons. Asked if he’d ever lost his job there, Fujikawa said, “No.”

“That’s one reason we signed him, in case something like this happened,” Sveum said. “He’s comfortable in getting the last three outs. It’s just kind of the logical thing to do instead of thinking you’re going to do it by committee or anything like that.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/7 What to do with Marmol

Last May, Cubs manager Dale Sveum removed Carlos Marmol as the closer, and used James Russell and Rafael Dolis. The Cubs didn’t have that many save opportunities, and Marmol then went on the disabled list May 12 with a strained hamstring. He was reinstated as the closer when he returned in late May but the Cubs told Marmol he could not shake off his catcher. It seemed to work. After compiling a 5.61 ERA in 31 games before the All-Star break last year, Marmol had a 1.52 ERA in 30 games in the second half.

In his three appearances this season, it’s been a struggle for Marmol. He’s retired four of the 13 batters he’s faced in three games. Teams are batting .600 against him, and he’s given up five runs on six hits in 10 at-bats, including the two home runs. Right-handed hitters are 5-for-5 with two walks. Marmol also has shown a pattern that scouts are probably picking up. He throws first-pitch fastballs to batters 80 percent of the time, and when he’s ahead in the count, he’ll go to his slider 75 percent of the time. If he has two strikes, he’ll also throw his slider 90.9 percent.

What are Sveum’s options? Shawn Camp is 12-for-28 in his career in save situations. He had two saves in 2012, his last one coming Aug. 26 against the Rockies in a 5-0 win.
Russell is 2-for-9 in career save opportunities, picking up both last season. He was 0-2 in save situations in 2010 and again in 2011.

By the way, this is the last year of Marmol’s three-year, $20 million contract that will pay him $9.8 million this season.

* About last night: According to Elias Sports Bureau, Justin and B.J. Upton are the first brothers in Major League history to hit a game-tying and walk-off home run in the same inning. The two brothers connected off Marmol in the ninth to give the Braves a 6-5 win over the Cubs. The Uptons are the first brothers to hit a home run in the same inning since Cal and Billy Ripken did so in 1996 with the Orioles.

“That’s what you dream about — to be on the field and have that big at-bat and to come through for your team,” Justin said. “You can’t beat that.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/6 Braves 6, Cubs 5

It’s only five games into the season, but Carlos Marmol may have lost his job as the Cubs closer.

B.J. Upton led off the ninth with a game-tying home run off Marmol and his brother, Justin, followed one out later with a walk-off blast, his second homer of the game and fifth of the season, to lift the Braves to a 6-5 victory Saturday night over the Cubs.

Dale Sveum said they would discuss Marmol’s role, and may consider using Shawn Camp or James Russell as closer. Set-up pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa didn’t have his split-finger pitch, and was roughed up as well, giving up three runs on four hits in one inning. Marmol now has served up five runs on six hits over 1 2/3 innings in three games for a 27.00 ERA.

“We’re definitely going to talk about it now,” Sveum said about Marmol’s situation. “Fujikawa struggled, too.

“You’ve got Camp and Russell, who seem to be pretty efficient when they pitch,” Sveum said. “They’ve never had to do the last three outs of the game.”

It’s tough to pinpoint Marmol’s problems.

“I don’t know whether it’s mechanical, the arm angle or what,” Sveum said. “When he throws strikes, he’s getting hit now, too.”

Trailing 5-4 in the ninth against Marmol, B.J. Upton launched a 3-1 pitch to straightaway center. After Jason Heyward flew out, Justin, who had homered in the first, drove a 1-2 pitch to center for the game-winner. This was the first time the brothers have homered in the same game with the Braves, and the 25th time in baseball history that brother teammates have connected in the same game.

Marmol said the problem was locating his pitches.

“I tried to do my best,” he said. “I’m trying. I’m trying to do my best. I’ve got my confidence. They hit my pitch.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/4 Cubs 3, Pirates 2

Carlos Marmol most likely will keep it interesting in the ninth inning the rest of the season. At least, he listened to his pitching coach. The Pirates had two on and one out in the ninth Thursday, and had closed to within two runs against Marmol, who had been pulled from Monday’s game after failing to convert a save. Chicago pitching coach Chris Bosio then went to the mound. The message?

“Strike him out and get a ground ball,” Marmol said, “and that’s exactly what happened.”

Well, not exactly. Marmol gave up a RBI single to Gaby Sanchez, then struck out Pedro Alvarez and finally got Neil Walker to ground into a game-ending double play as the Cubs held on for a 3-2 victory Thursday, taking the first series of the season.

Said Dale Sveum on Marmol: “He was OK. It didn’t seem that way, but it wasn’t too bad.”

The Cubs didn’t exactly solve their offensive struggles Thursday, but were more efficient. Nate Schierholtz hit a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth and Starlin Castro delivered a two-out RBI single in the third to back Travis Wood, who tossed six scoreless innings.

The Cubs entered the game 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position in their first two games. Castro ended the skid in the third. With two outs and Wood at second after a single and groundout, Castro delivered a RBI single to center off James McDonald (0-1). Schierholtz homered in the ninth off Jared Hughes, and drove in Anthony Rizzo, who had walked and stole second. It was Schierholtz’s first home run since Aug. 1, when he connected off current teammate Edwin Jackson, who was pitching for the Nationals at the time.

With the win, the Cubs claimed their first season-opening series victory since the start of the 2009 season, when they took two of three against the Astros.

“Our goal is to win every game, and win every series,” Schiernholtz said. “It’s a good start.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/3 Extra bases

Carlos Marmol is still the Cubs closer, and pitching coach Chris Bosio would like to see the right-hander get back in a game as soon as possible. Marmol was pulled in the ninth inning of the season opener Monday against the Pirates. He struck out the first batter, then hit a batter, gave up a RBI single, and walked another before he was lifted.

“He’s the closer,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Wednesday. “We’ve talked, and he knows he’s got to throw strikes. … When the starter goes eight [innings], you’re going to do whatever you can to save that lead.”

Jeff Samardzija threw eight scoreless innings, and Kyuji Fujikawa got the final out for the save in his first U.S. appearance.

“It’s just one game,” Sveum said, trying to downplay any closer controversy. “We had the opportunity to get matchups in there when Marmol didn’t have his fastball or slider, but it isn’t going to affect anything right now. You just play nine innings.”

* The Cubs signed outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who was released by the Red Sox, and infielder Donnie Murphy, who was let go by the Brewers, to Minor League deals, and both were to report to Triple-A Iowa. Murphy batted .239 in 24 games this spring with Milwaukee, and has a career .205 average in 244 big league games with the Marlins. Sweeney has a career .280 average in the big leagues.

* Cubs pitcher Matt Garza, on the disabled list with a strained left lat, was expected to join the team in Atlanta on Friday and start throwing off the mound. Garza has been limited to playing catch on flat ground since he first felt the discomfort in his side Feb. 17 in a live batting practice session. The good news is Garza has had no problems with his right elbow, which limited him to 18 games last season.

* Carlos Villanueva, who will make his Cubs debut on Saturday, starting against the Braves, threw a simulated game on Tuesday, an off day for the team.

— Carrie Muskat

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

3/27 Sveum: No worries about Marmol

In 2004, Keith Foulke gave up 15 earned runs in nine Spring Training innings for a 15.00 ERA. Cubs manager Dale Sveum, then on the Red Sox coaching staff, called it “the worst Spring Training in the history of the game.” That year, Foulke saved 32 games for the Red Sox, and helped them win a World Series.

“That’s why you don’t put too much emphasis on Spring Training,” Sveum said Wednesday.

Which is why Sveum wasn’t too upset after Carlos Marmol’s rough outing Tuesday night against the Reds. Marmol had not given up an earned run in his seven outings before Tuesday when he failed to retire any of the six batters he faced. The right-hander was charged with three earned runs on six hits and one walk. In his seven previous outings, he had given up four hits. Marmol’s spring ERA went from 1.86 to 4.66 after the outing, which isn’t close to being Foulke-like.

“He’s been throwing strikes with his fastball,” Sveum said of Marmol. “[Tuesday], he got hit a little bit but it’s still strikes and he’s doing a pretty good job. He had four outings in a row where I think the most pitches he threw were 12.

“There’s no worries there,” he said. “It’s Spring Training, just like you don’t worry about one of your core hitters struggling in Spring Training because Opening Day is a different animal with adrenaline and focus and everything gets better.”

The Cubs do have Kyuji Fujikawa in camp. The Japanese right-hander was a closer for 12 seasons with Hanshin, and will be used to close if Marmol needs a breather. But Fujikawa isn’t taking Marmol’s job.

“Anybody can lose their job at any time during the season, but there’s one thing you don’t get caught up in — you don’t get caught up in guys’ track records in Spring Training or what’s going on in Spring Training,” Sveum said. “The adrenaline factor and all that — you don’t ever forget what [Marmol] did the last three months of the season last year.”

After the All-Star break, Marmol posted a 1.52 ERA in 30 games, and saved 12 of 13 opportunities.

— Carrie Muskat

3/26 Reds 11, Cubs 1

Johnny Cueto topped Jeff Samardzija on the mound and at the plate in a showdown between two Opening Day starters on Tuesday. Todd Frazier hit a solo home run to back Cueto and and lift the Reds to an 11-1 victory over the Cubs. The game was the Cubs’ first night game at HoHoKam Stadium since March 28, 2005, and played in front of 9,388 fans. Samardzija, who will kick off the Cubs season Monday in Pittsburgh, gave up five hits over five innings, did not walk a batter, and struck out four.

“This is the last hurrah and it’s just basically getting his work in and working on what he feels he needs to work on going into Opening Day,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said before the game.

Cueto singled off Samardzija with two outs in the Reds’ third, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Emmanuel Burriss’ double. Samardzija and Cueto have squared off before.

“It was definitely a good atmosphere and I’ve pitched against Johnny since High A down in Sarasota and Daytona,” Samardzija said. “We know each other pretty well. He’s a heck of a pitcher and had a heck of a year last year.”

Hisanori Takahashi, bidding for the Cubs’ final bullpen spot, struck out the side in the sixth. But Frazier connected on the first pitch leading off the seventh for his fifth spring home run.

The Reds sent 13 batters to the plate in the ninth and scored nine runs, including six off Carlos Marmol, who failed to retire any of the six batters he faced.

* Up next: The Cubs will play their penultimate game in Arizona on Wednesday night when they travel to Surprise to face the Royals under the lights. Scott Feldman, who will open the Cubs’ series in Atlanta on April 5, will get the start. Among the players scheduled to make the trip are David DeJesus, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and Darwin Barney. The game, which begins at 6:05 p.m. Arizona time, will be broadcast on WGN Radio.

— Carrie Muskat

3/23 Cubs 7, Angels 6

Scott Hairston hit a tie-breaking solo home run to highlight a four-run seventh inning but the Cubs had to rally in the eighth as pinch-runner Shawon Dunston Jr. scored the game-winner on a wild pitch to post a 7-6 victory Saturday over the Angels.

With the game tied at 6 in the Chicago eighth, Steve Clevenger doubled to lead off and was lifted for Dunston, son of former Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston Jr., now a coach in the Giants’ Minor League organization. One out later, Dunston scampered home on a wild pitch by the Angels’ Ernesto Frieri.

The Cubs trailed 5-2 going into the seventh. Brent Lillibridge tripled to open the inning and chase Joe Blanton. Nick Maronde then walked pinch-hitter Dave Sappelt, and David DeJesus hit a RBI double. Alberto Gonzalez, battling for a spot on the bench, delivered a two-run double but was thrown out at third trying to extend his hit. One out later, Hairston connected on his home run.

Carlos Marmol picked up the win despite blowing the lead in the eighth when he walked two and hit another batter. The Angels tied the game when a run scored on a passed ball by Clevenger.

Edwin Jackson started for the Cubs, and gave up five runs on eight hits over five innings.

“They came out swinging,” Jackson said of the Angels. “I left a couple balls out over the middle of the plate and they did a good job hitting the ball. I challenged hitters, and they got their hits.”

He also collected two hits, including a RBI single in the fifth. Jackson will start the Cubs’ final game at HoHoKam Stadium on Thursday, and then be slotted after Jeff Samardzija for the second regular season game, April 3, against the Pirates. Is he ready?

“Health-wise, I feel pretty good,” Jackson said. “If the season started tomorrow, I’d be confident where I am and I feel I can go out and do what I need to do to help the team win.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/21 Fighting for last spot

The Cubs have nine games remaining starting Friday, and nine pitchers fighting for one opening in the bullpen.

Carlos Marmol, Kyuji Fujikawa, James Russell, Shawn Camp are set, plus the Cubs like what they’ve seen from right-hander Hector Rondon, a Rule 5 Draft pick. Michael Bowden, who is on the 40-man roster and does not have options left, has had a strong spring and appears to have secured a spot.

“He’s had a good spring, he has a track record, he pitched very well the last two or three months he was up last year,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Bowden, who compiled a 2.95 ERA in 30 relief appearances last season with the Cubs. “He’s basically the one guy in the bullpen who can go multiple innings and that’s a huge asset to have.”

Which leaves Jaye Chapman, Rafael Dolis, Jensen Lewis, Blake Parker, Hisanori Takahashi, Casey Coleman, Drew Carpenter, Zach Putnam and Cory Wade remaining. Dolis is the only one on the list who is on the 40-man roster and the right-hander does have an option remaining. Takahashi is the only lefty in the mix.

“Realistically, there’s one relief spot open,” Sveum said.

— Carrie Muskat