MESA, Ariz. This isnt fantasy baseball. The players arent robots. Millionaires have egos, doubts and insecurities, too.
Carlos Marmols frustration became obvious this week. Even if it is only spring training, the Cubs closer didnt react that way with his typical shoulder shrug: What can I say?
Marmol had given up seven runs combined in his previous two Cactus League outings, showing his wild side by walking two batters and hitting two more. Your reflex was to look up how many blown saves he had last year (10, which led the majors).
Manager Dale Sveum made it a point to talk to Marmol on Wednesday, to reassure him how much he means to the team, and remind him dont get carried away with it, just keep working to get better.
Marmol walked into the clubhouse in a much better frame of mind during Thursdays eventual 12-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at HoHoKam Stadium. He was exhaling after a scoreless inning, and crediting his third manager in the past three seasons.
(Sveum) really told me what I needed to do. Its nice having a manager talk to you like that, Marmol said. I feel different. I was myself. I calmed down a little bit. Its good the manager lets you know what he thinks.
He understands the players better than anybody else so far.
Sveum, whose style is direct and to the point, laughed that one off when he heard about it later in his office.
I hope he says that when its all said and done, Sveum said. Communication, obviously, is huge. Its just a matter of treating these guys like human beings and understanding theyre human, no matter how much money they make.
Whether its the top guy or the 25th guy on the roster, theyre all human beings and theyre going to fail. Theres so much negativity in this game that you have to give everybody confidence. Its just the way it is. These guys are major-league players and theyve had lots of success and sometimes they doubt that ability they have.
Thats why Theo Epsteins front office has told Marmol that hell be the closer and instructed him to work harder on his fastball command.
They give me that confidence, Marmol said, the confidence that maybe I didnt have last year.
The real verdict will come in the regular season, when there are 40,000 fans on their feet at Wrigley Field watching Marmol do his high-wire act.
But for now, Sveum was just content to see Marmol get the third out, a groundball, using a sinker that pitching coach Chris Bosio recommended with a new grip.
Its spring training in Arizona, said former closer Ryan Dempster. There will be a lot of those struggles. The ball flies here, the infields are fast. Sometimes you see the numbers and you look at it as struggling, but I think the way the ball is coming out of his hand is the most important part. I think hell be just fine.
As Marmol stood by his locker laughing and smiling, he was asked about goals for this season. A key member of the teams that won back-to-back division titles in 2007 and 2008 said the Cubs have to start winning again: The city needs that. We need that.
Myself? Its trying to make the All-Star team, Marmol said. Thats all.
Marmol whose meltdowns helped the Cardinals sneak into the playoffs last season was in such a good mood that he didnt stop there.
The ring, dog, thats what were looking for, Marmol said. I dont want to be jealous (like) last year when St. Louis won. Im trying to get that ring.