In the aftermath of another late-game meltdown, Cubs manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio answered question after question about enigmatic reliever Carlos Marmol Sunday morning.
Marmol blew another lead Saturday, allowing all three batters he faced to reach base -- and ultimately score -- in the Cubs' heart-breaking 6-4 loss to the Reds. On Sunday, Marmol was right back out there for the series finale, hurling a perfect sixth inning.
"I'm glad [Sveum] gave me the ball. It doesn't matter what inning it is, I told him I want to pitch," Marmol said after Sunday's loss.
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The last two years have been a wild ride for Marmol and the Cubs continue to look for ways to get production out of their $9.8 million reliever.
"We're really in no different situation than we were Saturday," Sveum said prior Sunday's game. "Obviously, he had a bad outing [Saturday] and couldn't throw strikes. But nothing's changed right now."
Bosio broke it down as simply as possible.
"He's gotta be better," Bosio said before Sunday's game. "He's gotta pitch better. The bottom line is...we've got to do our part and be better across the board."
Marmol got off to a rough start in 2012, ultimately losing the closer's job in May. He walked 28 batters in 25.2 first half innings, sporting a 5.61 ERA. But after the All-Star break, Marmol was a completely different pitcher, saving 12 games with a 1.52 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 30 appearances.
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The Cubs nearly dealt Marmol to the Angels in November for Dan Haren, but after the trade fell through, he started 2013 as Sveum's closer.
Marmol, 30, allowed five earned runs in his first 1.2 innings of the season and lost the closer's job by April 7. But he appeared to be in a groove after that, making 10 straight scoreless appearances and lowering his ERA from 27.00 to 3.86 in the process.
But that was before Saturday's blowup. So what's the problem?
"I think its tempo and concentration for Carlos," Bosio said. Those are two huge things for him. At times, he tries too hard. He just grips the ball too hard and that's when we see pitches that aren't executed.
"I think he trusts his stuff. You just gotta execute the pitch. Sometimes, this game speeds up for all of us. You gotta slow it down, see the sign, see the catcher set up and see the glove.
"[Saturday], he got going too quick. When [he] gets going too quick, [he gets] all out of whack. He's got a very important role. Normally when he's in, the game is tied or we've got the lead."
It wasn't long ago that Marmol was considered one of the best relievers in the game, with a devastating slider and a fastball sitting in the mid-to-upper 90s.
He never had good control (career 6.1 BB/9) but throughout everything -- all the struggles and demotions the past few seasons -- the strikeouts have always been there for Marmol. He has whiffed 11.7 batters per nine innings throughout his eight-year career, including a whopping 16.0 K/9 during a record-setting 2010 season in which he saved 38 games.
It's that ability to miss bats that may be part of Marmol's downfall, however.
"He's admitted that he thinks guys are going to swing at every pitch out of his hand," Bosio said. "He tries to make every pitch a two-strike pitch and that's part of the problem. He's trying to bury a pitch and overthrow the pitch.
"He just needs to back off. A lot of times, doing too much can be a deterrent. You're not relaxed; you're not getting the spin on the ball. You're not working over the top of the ball; you're working under the ball.
"Get him to relax and get him to where he was the second half of last year. That's where we all want him to be and that's where he wants to be."
The Cubs had no intention of holding Marmol out of game action until he could right the ship.
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"He's one of those seven guys [in the bullpen] and he's gotta pitch," Sveum said. "We'll get him back out there in some fashion. You can't hide people. They have to pitch.
"They're on the team. They have to get back out there and do the best they can again. We only have so many innings and so many relievers. You can't throw the same guy every day."
Even if there was a way to hide a reliever, Marmol wouldn't hear of it. Through it all, he has held his head high, never running from the media after a blown save or trying to play the blame game.
"There are no worries in Marmol going out there with his attitude and the way he's handled things with the press and held himself accountable for everything," Sveum said. "He comes out and he does his work. We just have to get something out of it.
"I'm not going to lie to you; we have to get some production out of the innings he pitches."