Sveum: No worries about Marmol

Sveum: No worries about Marmol

March 27, 2013, 8:00 pm
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MESA, Ariz. - Carlos Marmol got booed while making his slow walk from the mound back to the dugout.

That scene on Tuesday night at HoHoKam Stadium made it feel like the regular season. The Cubs closer had faced six batters in the ninth inning and got zero outs, giving up four hits, one walk and six runs - three earned - in an 11-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds that suddenly got out of control.

But manager Dale Sveum believes it will be different for Marmol when there's a second deck and the crowds are 40,000-plus instead of 9,388. Sveum thought back to his time as a third-base coach with the Boston Red Sox and their 2004 Band of Idiots.

"Keith Foulke had the worst spring training you'll ever see in the history of the game and saved 46 games and won the World Series," Sveum said Wednesday. "So those are things you just never forget, man. They always stick out in your mind, why you don't put too much emphasis on spring training."

That year Foulke actually saved 32 games during the regular season. But he did post a 15.00 ERA in spring training and get the final out in Game 4, completing a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, ending the 86-year championship drought and setting off celebrations all across Red Sox Nation.

No one's prepared to write a similar script for Marmol, who'll earn $9.8 million in the final year of his contract. That makes him a short-term asset Theo Epstein's front office will almost certainly look to cash in by the July 31 trade deadline.

"There's no worries," Sveum said. "It's just like (how) you don't worry about one of your core hitters struggling in spring training, because Opening Day is a whole 'nother animal, to where adrenaline and focus and everything gets tremendously better."

But even if we are just talking about practice, it should be pointed out Marmol had allowed zero earned runs in his previous seven Cactus League appearances. He also gained the coaching staff's trust last season by using his fastball more and putting up a 1.52 ERA in 30 games after the All-Star break.

And Sveum is a firm believer in the idea that not everyone has the makeup to be a closer, that it takes guts and a short memory to work the ninth inning.

"You've seen the experiments before," Sveum said. "A lot of times they just don't pan out. By the same token, (sometimes you'll think): 'Man, that guy saved 35 games and he throws 89 miles an hour and a little breaking ball. But he throws strikes and he doesn't throw up in the last three outs of the game.'"

The Cubs have already lined up Marmol's replacement. Kyuji Fujikawa's two-year, $9.5 million contract contains a vesting/club option for 2015 that could make him a building block. But right now the plan is for Fujikawa - whose resume includes 219 career saves in Japan's Central League - to work the eighth inning in front of Marmol.

"Obviously, anybody can lose their job any time during the season," Sveum said. "(But) you don't get caught up in guys' track records in spring training.

"Don't forget what (Marmol) did the last three months of the season last year."

Good Marmol. Bad Marmol. Expect Sveum to channel his inner Lovie Smith and keep repeating: Marmol is our closer. (For now.)