Tuesday, March 8, 2011
By Patrick Mooney
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Carlos Marmol knows that he is a target, because of where he plays and the nature of his work. The Cubs believe that hes perfectly suited for the job. The sellout crowds at Wrigley Field will hang on every slider.
I hate when they boo me. I really hate it, Marmol said. Yeah, I know, (its going to happen). But sometimes we dont deserve that, because were not perfect. Were going to make mistakes and blow a save.
(But) I like the energy of the fans. I like to be in that position. It makes me work a little more.
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This is Marmols first spring as an established closer. Kerry Wood is setting up for him now, and he has the security of a new 20 million deal. But he does not want you to think hes changed.
I concentrate (on) the season, Marmol said. I dont worry about money. I dont worry about anything else. He then cleared his throat and announced: I want to get another contract, man!
Marmol, 28, often punctuates his thoughts with laughter, like when he curses at a teammate in the middle of the clubhouse, or demands the 10-year Albert Pujols extension, or responds to a question about how many saves he thinks he can get this year.
Sixty! he joked.
That seems unreachable, but Marmol did save 38 of the Cubs 75 wins last season, when he would sometimes go weeks between chances. On a decent team with what looks like a much improved bullpen, its reasonable to think that he could approach 50 saves.
Marmol will be motivated because his three-year deal runs through 2013 and he is positioned to become a free agent at age 31. With his newfound wealth, hes planning to take out all the Latin players from the minor-league system for a nice dinner one night this month.
Who told you that? Marmol wondered.
Marmol wasnt broadcasting the information. He has humble roots. He was only a 16-year-old kid when he first signed with the Cubs out of the Dominican Republic. And eventually he had to be talked into converting from catcher.
Marmol can usually be found in the clubhouse with his chair tilted back, his legs leaning up against his locker. Closing here is not the same as in Kansas City or Miami or Pittsburgh.
Hes got a good makeup for his role, no doubt, Wood said. You dont really have a choice in that position. Youre going to be in there the next day. You got to be ready to go. Its easier said than done, but (you) got to be the same guy every day.
Across the past three years, Marmol has appeared in 82, 79 and 77 games. Since the start of the 2007 season, he leads all major-league relievers with 441 strikeouts and a .154 batting average against.
Hes a gamer, reliever John Grabow said. You never hear him complain. He takes the ball every day.
Since taking over as Cubs closer in August 2009, Marmol has converted 49 of 54 save opportunities, which translates to a 91 percent success rate.
After Marmols long-anticipated extension was announced on Feb. 14, Mike Quade walked into the media workroom at Fitch Park and said he didnt want any flowers: Was that a Valentines Day gift or what?
There are few greater comforts for a manager than a closer he trusts in the ninth inning. Sure, Marmol will walk some guys on the way to the 25th, 26th and 27th outs of the game. But that is also what makes him so dangerous, and keeps hitters off-balance.
We all know when hes locked in hes fun to watch, maybe more exciting than you want sometimes, Quade said. (But) I believed from Day 1 that contract status was not going to matter to him. Hes a young guy who loves to pitch and loves (getting) the ball. I just dont see that changing.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.