Marmol looks good early in camp

Updated: February 24, 2010, 11:22 PM ET
Associated Press

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
Marmol

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.

Marmol has what baseball scouts refer to as electric stuff. In 74 innings last years, the hard-throwing right-hander allowed only 43 hits, including two homers, with a 3.41 ERA and 93 strikeouts. He allowed opposing batters only a .170 average.

But there were hiccups, too, many of them before he became the closer. Marmol, who has a motion in which he sometimes lands to the side of the mound, had bouts of wildness. He walked 65 batters, hit 12 and threw six wild pitches.

"With Carlos, it's all a matter of being able to repeat his delivery. And just early in spring, he's been real good at it," Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said.

"He's had the winter off. He's rested more. He knows he's the closer. Between getting that extra rest and him having to pitch only the ninth inning, I think we'll see him be able to repeat his delivery better and stay stronger, which is important to him because he's a max-effort guy."

Rothschild said Marmol has also learned how to deal with tough situations. And knowing what segment of the game he'll be in should make him even better.

"I think handling the emotions on the mound -- still having the adrenaline but channeling it -- his delivery will be better," Rothschild added.

"You saw it when he was closing last year: He had some of his quickest innings all year. He went through almost three years of warming up, being ready for the seventh or eighth ... being ready to face the better hitters when they come up in those innings. And that's a different situation. Over the course of three years that can wear you down a little bit. I think he's refreshed."

Marmol, who started 13 games as a rookie for the Cubs in 2006 and then got to go to the All-Star Game in 2008 as a reliever, earned a one-year contract for $2.125 million earlier this month and avoided an arbitration hearing. The salary represented the midpoint between the figures the sides exchanged.

Asked how it felt to be a millionaire reliever, the 27-year-old Marmol broke into a big laugh, saying he was happy to be able to support his family

"The Cubs have treated me good and I said to my agent: 'Let's do it and we don't have to go to arbitration,'" said Marmol, whose 161 relief appearances over the last two seasons are second most in the majors to the Mets' Pedro Feliciano (174).

Manager Lou Piniella agreed that with no worries about where he'll be in the bullpen, Marmol should be even more effective and in control.

"He's got confidence. ... He likes being out there. He doesn't shy away from it," Piniella said. "Talking to Goose Gossage, one of the best closers of all times, you are going to have bad games at times, but you got to be able to bounce back from them and I think Carlos has that type of makeup."

Notes

LHP Ted Lilly, coming off shoulder surgery and bothered by a sore knee this spring, missed his second straight day of workouts Wednesday because of a fever.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press