Can Cubs live with Marmols ups and downs?

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Can Cubs live with Marmols ups and downs?

Dale Sveum believes its essential for a manager to never show emotion, and his low-key personality will probably make that easier for him than most on the top step of the dugout.

But lets see the reaction shots when Carlos Marmol walks two batters in a one-run game, 40,000 fans are on their feet and Theo Epstein begins pacing around his suite.

Thats only if the Cubs dont find another endgame solution. After his welcome to Chicago news conference last week, Sveum was asked: Are you set with Marmol as your closer?

Sure, right now thats what we have, Sveum said. We dont have another closer.

By all accounts, Kerry Wood is expected to return in 2012, and Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner have the potential to one day close, so the Cubs are in a position of strength at the back end of their bullpen.

Sveum has a nuanced, detailed understanding of statistical analysis. But his eyes and his gut tell him that some just arent cut out for the high-adrenaline job.

Not everybodys made to get those last three outs of (a) game, Sveum said. A lot of people might be able to get those three outs in the sixth inning or seventh inning.

Sometimes its not pretty. (But) its not that easy to find guys that can get those last three outs, no matter how ugly its going to be.

Marmol was great theater in 2010, saving 38 games and finishing with 15.99 strikeouts per nine innings, the highest single-season mark in major-league history.

But Marmol lost the feel for his slider last season, and didnt seem to trust his fastball. His ERA ballooned to 4.01 and he tied for the major-league lead with 10 blown saves.

You always try to remember what a guy looks like when hes been good, general manager Jed Hoyer said. Last year clearly was a struggle. The year before was dominant. Hopefully, we can get his slider back on track and make him a dominant closer.

Jonathan Papelbon who got the final out of the 2007 World Series emerged as a key part of the scouting and player-development machine Epstein and Hoyer built in Boston.

The Phillies recently signed Papelbon to a four-year, 50 million contract with a vesting option for 2016. Hoyer doesnt think that deal should make anyone rethink Marmols value.

Its very rare to have a closer with that long a track record, Hoyer said. Since the start of 2006, (Papelbons) been consistent and dominant and really only had one minor health issue.

Marmol had trouble maintaining his mechanics which is never easy for someone with such an unorthodox delivery after signing a three-year, 20 million deal thats heavily back-loaded. Hes guaranteed 7 million in 2012 and 9.8 million the year after that.

Paul Kinzer didnt negotiate that contract, but the agent now represents the closer, along with a few other high-profile Cubs: I think youll see Marmol come (into camp) in great shape and be ready to go (with a) different attitude.

It wouldnt just be selling extremely low on Marmol. The Cubs will also have to take into account a market thats loaded with closer options. The As and Rockies are reportedly listening on offers for Andrew Bailey and Huston Street.

The Rangers reportedly closed with Joe Nathan on Monday, agreeing to a two-year deal worth around 14.5 million that also includes a club option.

Here are some of the other free agents still on the board: Ryan Madson; Heath Bell; Francisco Rodriguez; Francisco Cordero; Frank Francisco; Matt Capps; and Jonathan Broxton.

The exceptional Papelbon became the first player in major-league history to collect at least 30 saves in each of his first six full seasons, and the fastest to reach 200 career saves (359 games), breaking Mariano Riveras record (382).

Heres where Hoyer made a comparison to Marmol: That 2011 season followed one in which Papelbon blew eight saves and finished with a 3.90 ERA for a third-place team. In this line of work, you have to expect volatility.

(Papelbon) struggled a little bit in 2010, Hoyer said. (He) came back and was incredible last year. So it is a position where guys have their ups and downs.

This winter, the Cubs will have to decide just how much they can stomach.

Brett Anderson’s main takeaway from Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio

Brett Anderson’s main takeaway from Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio

MESA, Ariz. – The pitching section of The Cubs Way manual might not be spelled out this way, but it can be summed up in five words: Have 'em work with Boz.

Or at least that's how it sounds whenever the Cubs add another fading prospect or injury case, rolling the dice on raw stuff, change-of-scenery psychology and the wizardry of pitching coach Chris Bosio.

While the Theo Epstein administration is still waiting on the drafted-and-developed pitchers to put around the Wrigley Field marquee next to the images of sluggers Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs already have the infrastructure in place that helped turn Jake Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner and transform Kyle Hendricks into an ERA leader.

One of Bosio's ongoing projects is Brett Anderson, who underwent surgery to repair a bulging disc in his lower back last March, yet another injury in a career that hasn't lived up to his own expectations.

"It's one of those things where he's not trying to reinvent the wheel," Anderson said. "It's more trying to limit the pressure on my back and mild mechanical adjustments where I don't land on my heel as much and kind land on the ball of my foot or my toes, so it's not such a whiplash effect.

"He's had a good track record with health, especially the last couple years, and hopefully I can fall in line there, too."

Anderson made it through his first Cactus League outing, throwing a scoreless first inning during Monday's 4-4 tie with the White Sox in front of another sellout crowd at Sloan Park in Mesa. The Cubs are taking a calculated risk here with a one-year, $3.5 million that could max out with $6.5 million more in incentives if Anderson makes 29 starts this season.

[MORE CUBS: How Ryan Dempster wound up on Team Canada for World Baseball Classic]

The Cubs can put the best defensive unit in the majors behind a lefty groundball pitcher and don't need to make a dramatic overhaul with a guy who grew up around the game. Anderson's father, Frank, is an assistant at the University of Houston and the former head coach at Oklahoma State University.

"I've been going to the field since I could walk and talk and annoy college kids," Anderson said. "I could take that one of two ways: I could get burnt out quick and kind of shy away from baseball. Or I could eat it up. Fortunately for me, I've eaten it up all the way through."

The entire question with Anderson revolves around health. He won 11 games for the Oakland A's in 2009 – finishing sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting – and hasn't topped that number since. There's been a Tommy John surgery and disabled-list time for a stress fracture in his right foot, a broken left index finger and a separate surgery on his lower back.

"If you dwell on the negative, you're going to worry yourself sick," Anderson said. "Pitching's fun – good, bad or indifferent – (so) you have to have a positive outlook, because otherwise you just walk around with a black cloud over your head."

The only other time Anderson hit the 30-start mark would be 2015, when he threw a career-high 180.1 innings, put up a 3.69 ERA and led the majors with a 66.7 groundball percentage. He couldn't repeat that performance with the Los Angeles Dodgers, accounting for 11.1 innings last year and not making the roster in either playoff round.

The "hybrid" fifth/sixth starter idea manager Joe Maddon floated sounds good in theory and we'll see how it works with Anderson and Mike Montgomery and a veteran rotation with strong opinions and clear ideas about routines. But the Dodgers needed 15 different starting pitchers to survive the 162-game marathon last year and seemed to run out of gas by the time the National League Championship Series returned to Wrigley Field.

"You can't have too much depth coming from where I was last year in L.A.," Anderson said. "We used so many starters. Obviously, that wasn't really the case here, which you can't really bank on year in and year out. But if I'm healthy, everything else will work itself out and I'll take my chances.”

Cubs: How Ryan Dempster wound up on Team Canada for World Baseball Classic

Cubs: How Ryan Dempster wound up on Team Canada for World Baseball Classic

MESA, Ariz. – During an escalating prank war, Ryan Dempster once arranged for a camera crew to shadow Will Ohman in spring training and sell the journeyman reliever on being the star in a TV special.

But Dempster isn't trying to punk anyone by playing for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic – even though he's almost 40 years old and hasn't pitched in a competitive environment since Game 1 of the 2013 World Series at Fenway Park.

Don't let the Harry Caray/Will Ferrell impersonations fool you. Dempster always had a different side to his personality, an edge that allowed him to recover from Tommy John surgery, transition from 30-save closer back to All-Star starter and throw nearly 2,400 innings in The Show.

Still, it sort of felt like a reality show or a time machine or a spin-off from a Kris Bryant Red Bull ad on Monday at Field 1, the most secluded spot to throw live batting practice at the Sloan Park complex. On a cool, gray day, Dempster looked the same with his reddish beard, glove waggle, white pinstriped pants and blue Nike cleats.

Before stepping into the batter's box, Cubs president Theo Epstein tried to talk a little trash with Dempster: "I know I can't hit big-league pitching, but I'll see if I can hit you."

Besides Epstein, the eclectic group of hitters included Tommy La Stella and minor-leaguer Todd Glaesmann. Dempster threw roughly 50 pitches to Lance Rymel, a former farm-system catcher who will manage a Dominican summer league team this year. The audience included one reporter, six fans, a group of curious Cubs staffers and reliever Jim Henderson, who is in camp on a minor-league deal and will also pitch for Team Canada.

"I'm not going to be disrespectful to the whole process," Dempster said. "I'm not just like playing in a beer league and then decide: 'Eh, I'll throw against the Dominican team. The U.S. looks like they're pretty stacked, but I'll be all right.' I know what it entails going into this.

"At the end of the day, I'm not so worried about velocity. I'm worried about command and my ability to change speeds. It has been pretty funny to see the reactions, and I can understand why people would see it as far-fetched. But I always liked a good challenge."

Dempster first hatched this idea during a Fourth of July vacation, somewhere around Sequoia National Park in California. The group included Ted Lilly – another pitcher who got by with guts and became a special assistant in Epstein's front office – and former bullpen catcher Corey Miller.

"I just said: 'For old times' sake, why don't I throw a side?'" Dempster recalled. "I thought for sure when I woke up the next day I wouldn't be able to lift my arm up. And it felt really good."

Dempster continued with a throwing program – even through a trip to Hawaii after the World Series – and contacted Greg Hamilton, the head coach and director of Baseball Canada. As a Cub, Dempster had been the one leading runs up Camelback Mountain and showing younger pitchers like Jeff Samardzija how to train for 200 innings.

"I wasn't sure if he was serious or not," said Epstein, who did make contact against Dempster. "And then when I figured out he meant it and had a plan, I knew he'd be fine, because he's such a hard worker and he's really smart. If he's going to put the time in to get ready, I knew he'd be fine. He'll be competitive, for sure."

Dempster understood how to put together his own program with a focus on his legs, strengthening his core and shoulder exercises. To be clear, this isn't setting the stage for a comeback, the way game-over closer Eric Gagne is hoping to use Team Canada as a launching pad (after not pitching in the big leagues since 2008).

"This is just a chance to represent my country," said Dempster, who grew up in British Columbia and played on junior national teams in the 1990s. "Sometimes – I'm not bored – but a challenge in life or an opportunity presents itself. (And) it's a good lesson to teach my kids: If you work hard at something, you can do (it) and hopefully it pays off."

Dempster went out on top as a World Series champion, walking away from $13.25 million rather than pitch for the Boston Red Sox in 2014. He signed on with MLB Network and rejoined the Cubs as a special assistant in baseball operations. If he had to pick a lane, it would probably be entertainment and building off his Cubs Convention late-night format and sketches like "The Newlywed Game" with Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

But Dempster still needs a fix. The star-studded cast from the Dominican Republic – Robinson Cano, Manny Machado, Adrian Beltre, Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz – will be waiting on March 9 at Marlins Park.

"Major League Baseball, professional sports aren't a normal job," Dempster said. "How do you go from that extreme high, the adrenaline rush of going out there and pitching in front of 40-grand every day to…now what do you do that satisfies you? I'm trying to find that, make my way towards that. I feel like I will eventually get there."