Wood, Marmol and the shape of Cubs bullpen

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Wood, Marmol and the shape of Cubs bullpen

PHILADELPHIA Kerry Wood gave a thumbs-up review of his simulated game and kept walking through the clubhouse: It went good. Thanks.

Wood threw around 22 pitches on Monday at Citizens Bank Park. If the right shoulder responds, the Cubs hope to activate him by Thursday or Friday.

Wood hasnt appeared in a real game since April 13, and went on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue thats been bothering him occasionally since the beginning of spring training.

Well just see how everything goes the next couple days, manager Dale Sveum said. If everything goes according to plan where the bullpens not all beat up, it will probably be Thursday.

The Cubs arent going to overload their 3 million setup man. The emergence of 24-year-old Rafael Dolis (1-1, 3.38 ERA, one save, two holds) gives them another option. Wood wont automatically work the eighth inning right away.

(To) just take a little stress off the whole situation when he first comes back, Sveum said, we could possibly just move him into the seventh-inning role and see what happens there. But well talk about that in the next few days.

The Cubs have had trouble getting the ball to Carlos Marmol, a consequence of their spotty offense. Sveum believes that helps explain why the closer has been so erratic.

Marmol saved a game on April 8, and didnt get another chance until April 24 (which he couldnt convert). He had a five-run cushion on Sunday and walked three batters and forced in a run before getting the final out in Sundays 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Hes just got to understand (his) fastball, Sveum said. Hes thrown 62 fastballs this year and hes given up one hit, so he shouldnt be afraid to throw that thing.

Hes not a guy thats going to paint corners. Just knowing that you dont have to go to the slider all the time is the big thing. When your fastballs not getting hit and theres not a lot of hard contact when its in the zone have some confidence.

He needs to pitch more and that will help him, too. Hes one of those guys that needs to pitch and have more of a feel for everything out there on the mound because hes a max-effort guy.

Marmol (0-1, 5.87 ERA) stressed that he doesnt want to make any excuses. But he acknowledged that it hasnt been easy to stay sharp under these circumstances.

Yeah, man, everybody knows that, Marmol said. Ten, 15 days without a save opportunity you go out there and try to do your best. Its going to be tough. You give your best that day.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs reach 100 wins for first time since 1935

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs reach 100 wins for first time since 1935

CSN's David Kaplan hosts a discussion with today's panel: Ravi Baichwal from ABC 7, David Haugh lead columnist from the Chicago Tribune, and Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times. The group discusses the Cubs reaching 100 wins on the season, talk Jay Cutler's future as Bears QB, and Scott Paddock stops by to talk NASCAR.

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below:

Brian Kelly aims to be more fiery, get players to play with more fun and passion

Brian Kelly aims to be more fiery, get players to play with more fun and passion

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Reeling with a 1-3 record and uncertain prospects of reaching a bowl game, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly wants his team to have more fun and play with more passion, and he sees being more fiery on the sidelines during games as part of the solution. 

When asked if he needed to be looser on the sidelines to help inject some “fun” into his team on gamedays, Kelly said said that's not the case. 

“I actually think I should probably — I think I've been a little too, what's the word I'm looking for, maybe not as demonstrative,” Kelly said. “I think I've got to be more fiery on the sidelines, quite frankly. So I'm going to try to turn it up a little bit on the sidelines, because that's who I am, you know? And I've been hands off a little bit. I just need to be who I am, and not be, you know, as hands off and I've got to be more involved. So if I was too fiery, you guys will have even better stories over the next couple of weeks.”

Kelly’s first couple years on campus were marked by easily-sharable purple-faced rants, and last year he got into a physical sideline confrontation with assistant strength coach David Grimes (Kelly later said he regretted the incident happened). Following a blown coverage against Michigan State that effectively ended Sept. 17’s 36-28 loss, Kelly was seen on TV directing an expletive at a defensive coach (both ex-defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and defensive backs coach Todd Lyght were in the vicinity). 

“I can still be demonstrative, but I just feel like they still have to see that passion from me as well and that's all I was saying,” Kelly said. “I don't have to be a loon particularly on the sideline and throw chairs and do that kinda stuff. But they have to feel that from me as well. I think that's very important in this game of football.”

Kelly sharply criticized his team’s passion — and lack thereof, as he saw it — after Notre Dame’ 38-35 loss to Duke last weekend. When asked Tuesday if he thought the best way to get his players to play with passion was by pointing out their lack of passion, Kelly said it wasn’t, but he and his coaches are working on finding that solution. 

“I have to be able to find out what are the reasons that we're not playing with passion,” Kelly said. “I’ve made some changes, obviously, some significant changes, within my staff, that goes to maybe some of the reasons why we weren't. And there are other things that have to continue to evolve for us to continue to move in the direction that I want.”

Everything is on the table as Notre Dame looks to dig itself out of its brutal September. Plenty more players will get on the field, Kelly promised, in a sort of quality-over-quantity approach to gameday snaps (Kelly pointed to safety Drue Tranquill playing his best game of the season on only 39 snaps, for instance). The seventh-year Irish coach will be more involved in the defense after firing VanGorder and replacing him with Greg Hudson. 

While he’s criticized both groups, Kelly said he’s confident in his players and his coaching staff’s ability to turn around the 2016 season and avoid being ineligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2007. 

“We're 1-3, our players aren't that bad, our coaches are pretty good coaches,” Kelly said. “I’ve been doing it for 27 years. Obviously, we're working through some things. We're working through some things and our guys are working through them. We're working through them, and we think we're going back in the right direction.”