Cubs arent worrying about Marmol yet

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Cubs arent worrying about Marmol yet

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Carlos Marmol was frustrated enough to flip over a garbage can in the clubhouse.

Its only spring training, but everythings magnified when youre making big money and coming off a down year. Thats the nature of the job. Closers usually get noticed only when they mess up.

Marmol apologized for the outburst on Monday and sat quietly at his locker. In his last two appearances combined, the Cubs closer has allowed seven runs on six hits, walked two batters and hit two more.

Concerned? manager Dale Sveum said Tuesday. No, breaking balls like his arent going to do a lot down here in Arizona. Youre always going to struggle with it and youre going to try and throw it harder and make it spin more. Its actually a counter-effect. But I think all along we just want to get his fastball command (back). Thats his biggest thing.

The Cubs have told Marmol to abandon his cutter and say that has helped his velocity tick back toward 94 mph. Twelve months after being rewarded with a three-year, 20 million contract, he appeared to be in better shape after losing around 10 pounds.

The people that have been around him know that hes been working as hard as he ever has, Sveum said. Its just a confidence thing.

Marmols mechanics are difficult to keep in line because he has such a violent, unique delivery, but the Cubs have stressed a few minor adjustments that he will have to internalize once the game speeds up.

Even if Marmol was pitching lights out, would it really matter? You cant draw conclusions yet, even after a season in which he led the majors with 10 blown saves and briefly lost the closers job.

Dont try to crank the breaking ball, Sveum said. Its not going to work in Arizona. Theres no air here. Nobodys breaking balls really break here. Thats why you see a lot of 15-14 games. Its a lot of fastballs and a lot of breaking balls that dont break that much. You just got to be careful of getting frustrated with that.

So theres no closer controversy yet. But Sveum says there could be as many as four if not five spots available in the bullpen (depending, in part, on whether or not Jeff Samardzija makes the rotation), making it a huge question mark.

One or two bad innings cant break a five-year window. Between 2007 and 2011, no reliever in baseball notched more strikeouts than Marmols 540 Jonathan Papelbon was second at 400 or had a lower batting average against (.164).

Marmol just has to remember what it takes. His manager isnt looking at other options.

Closers are meant to be closers because they can handle those last three outs, Sveum said. Its not that easy to find people. They might have the stuff, but they dont have the makeup to get those last three outs.

Lackey's 'country hardball' leads to 11 strikeouts in win over Nationals

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Lackey's 'country hardball' leads to 11 strikeouts in win over Nationals

John Lackey struck out 11 hitters for the second time this season Friday.

He had a slightly different way of describing it:

“We’re going to play a little country hardball and figure it out.”

The “country hardball” was working well for Lackey, who punched out nearly a dozen Washington Nationals in the Cubs’ 8-6 win at Wrigley Field, matching a season high in whiffs and earning his fourth win of the year.

After surrendering a pair of early runs, Lackey settled in nicely, allowing just two hits in his final five innings of work. Getting a ton of assistance from his offense certainly helped, the Cubs digging out of that early 2-0 hole by bashing four home runs against Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

Given Scherzer’s fate, Lackey’s performance on a day when the ball was soaring out of the Friendly Confines was particularly impressive. So too was his second 11-strikeout game of 2016 after not reaching that number in any game last season with the Cardinals.

“It was definitely a day for the hitters. A little warmer, wind blowing the other direction. It was a tough challenge today, for sure, with a good lineup, and I was fortunate to get a few strikeouts,” Lackey said. “You never know with the fly ball when things are like that around here.

“You’re going to have to miss some bats in this ballpark, especially later on in the summer when it warms up. Obviously it’s not a great place to pitch some days when the wind’s blowing out. It can play pretty small. Today I was fortunate.”

The Cubs’ hitters will take the headlines and make the highlight shows, an unsurprising result when Ben Zobrist hits four homers in three games and the Cubs boast a mind-boggling plus-98 run differential.

But that run differential and the Cubs’ success in general — 22 wins in their first 28 games of the season — wouldn’t be possible without elite pitching. Jake Arrieta’s credentials are well known, as are Jon Lester’s, and Jason Hammel has dazzled, too, with a 1.24 ERA.

Lackey has maybe seemed the odd man out with an ERA north of 4.00, but he’s shone in more than half his starts this season. In fact, he’s finding the confines at Wrigley to be quite friendly, owning a 2-0 record and a 2.49 ERA in three home starts. He’s gone at least seven innings in three of his last four starts and has a team-high 40 strikeouts on the season.

Make no mistake, every piece of this five-man rotation is pulling his weight, and Lackey is no exception.

“I’ve been in a few rotations, I try to handle my own business,” Lackey said. “We definitely root for each other hard. Jake’s on another level right now doing his thing. It’s a great group, it’s a fun group to hang out with and we work hard in the weight room, push each other. And then whoever’s day is that day, I’m their biggest fan, and I hope everybody does well.”

Lackey also became the fifth active pitcher to reach 2,000 career strikeouts, an achievement he chalked up to being old.

“I guess it means I’m old and been around a while, done a few things.”

The truth is that Lackey has “done a few things,” and it’s why he’s here. Theo Epstein’s front office brought Lackey in this winter because of his pedigree, which includes a pair of World Series rings and a dominating performance against this very Cubs lineup in Game 1 of last year’s NLDS.

Lackey signed on for the same reason the other big-name free agents did this offseason: This Cubs team has a chance to make his jewelry collection even more impressive.

With the Cubs owning the title of baseball’s best team almost 30 games into this season, is it time to start comparing this group with Lackey’s past title-winning squads?

“It’s a little early to get too crazy,” Lackey said. “Let’s play a little baseball.”

Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

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Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

- Catchers Alex Avila (strained hamstring) and Kevan Smith (back) were sent to the 15-day disabled list on April 24. On Friday, Avila started his rehab assignment in Triple-A Charlotte. Smith is in Glendale, Ariz. rehabbing his injury.

- Daniel Webb went to the 15-day DL on April 29 for right elbow flexor inflammation.

- Jake Petricka hit the 15-day DL with a right hip impingement.

CUBS

- Matt Szczur was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a strained right hamstring.

- Miguel Montero is eligible to return from the DL next Tuesday but Joe Maddon isn't sure if he needs a rehab stint. Montero landed on the DL on April 25 with back stiffness.

White Sox recall Scott Carroll, name Miguel Gonzalez as Monday's starter

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White Sox recall Scott Carroll, name Miguel Gonzalez as Monday's starter

Scott Carroll is here to supplement the White Sox bullpen and Miguel Gonzalez will be back in time to start on Monday.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura confirmed that Gonzalez would return to the rotation when the team opens a three-game series at the Texas Rangers on Monday night. Gonzalez — who signed a minor-league deal on April 3 — earned a no decision in his previous start against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 25. As for beyond Monday, the White Sox are in to-be-determined mode as to whom will handle the fifth spot in the rotation.

“(Miguel will) definitely get a run Monday,” Ventura said. “He’s gonna get a run Monday, see how many innings he can go. You look at what he did in Toronto, to get through a lineup like that, and to be in a spot to earn something, I think he has a presence about him that he can throw strikes and do what he needs to do to get through it.”

Carroll has worked entirely in relief since he was activated off the 7-day disabled list in late April. The right-hander went on the DL early in the season after he felt some instability in his shoulder. Carroll said he feels “really strong.”

The back of the bullpen has worked harder than normal the past two nights with the team’s two starters working 11 innings in consecutive losses to the Boston Red Sox. Carroll’s experience as a long man could come in handy for a bullpen that just lost Jake Petricka to the DL.

Carroll said he’s excited to get back around the big league club and the good vibes in the clubhouse.

“Early on, you could just tell with the new arrivals we had, it was just a different feeling than the last couple of years,” Carroll said. “Obviously, I’m a younger guy who hasn’t been with the White Sox, but you could definitely tell there was a different feeling than in past years.”