Mooney: Marmol vows to live up to his contract

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Mooney: Marmol vows to live up to his contract

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
4:19 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

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.

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

The Cubs gave Kyle Schwarber time to sort things out by sending him down to Triple-A Iowa, and Schwarber's first game back in the minors shows he may need some time.

Schwarber's first game with the Iowa Cubs was a forgettable one. He struck out in his first three plate appearances before singling in his last at-bat. He struck out looking in the first inning before striking out swinging his next two times up.

Schwarber batted third in the lineup and played left field. Iowa won 1-0 against the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

He last played for Iowa in 2015, but only spent 17 games there. He hit .333 with three homers and a 1.036 OPS in that short stint. Before getting sent down Schwarber was hitting .171 with the Cubs with 12 home runs, but also 75 strikeouts in 64 games.

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

WASHINGTON – The Cubs already visited the White House. The Washington Nationals are still the team with so much more to prove.

Dusty Baker needs this October to cement his spot in Cooperstown, the way Joe Maddon put the final bullet point on his Hall of Fame resume. Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant took different routes out of Las Vegas, but only one has the World Series ring to go with the Rookie of the Year/MVP hardware. While the clock is ticking on Max Scherzer and that championship parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, the Jon Lester megadeal essentially paid for itself.

Cubs vs. Nationals is supposed to be a circle-your-calendar event. Except the Cubs rolled out a Cactus League lineup on Monday night and Nationals Park featured rows and rows of empty seats amid a crowd of 29,651 where the celebrity vibe became more George Will than A-Rod and J-Lo.

The Cubs still hung on for a 5-4 victory that might have been their best under-the-circumstances win in a season that will hit the halfway point this weekend, showing why they’re the defending champs.

“It is exciting – don’t get me wrong,” Maddon said. “It’s just that we’re attending with a different group than we thought we would be attending this party with.

“And that’s OK, because these guys now are getting the kind of experience that is going to be very beneficial to us in August and September.”

A rash of injuries forced the Cubs to start Jeimer Candelario at third base and Mark Zagunis in right field and Javier Baez kept making highlight-reel plays while Addison Russell rested his sore right shoulder, leaping to grab to a Harper line drive and racing across the left-field line and sliding into the wall to make another spectacular catch in foul territory.

“Games like this is what we need right now – competition,” said Baez, who struck out in his first three at-bats and finished at 2-for-5. “Playing tight games like this will make us make adjustments better and be more in the game.”

With Kyle Schwarber more than 1,000 miles away in Des Moines and hitting the reset button at Triple-A Iowa, Willson Contreras became the leadoff hitter of the day and launched Gio Gonzalez’s fifth pitch of the game into the left-field seats.

The young Cubs manufactured their next run in the eighth inning when Baez stole third base and scored on Albert Almora Jr.’s perfectly placed bunt into the no man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and the first-base line. The bullpen is Washington’s Achilles’ heel and showed with a three-run meltdown in the ninth inning.

Eddie Butler – who began the season in the Iowa rotation – neutralized a powerful Washington lineup while getting just one strikeout in five innings. Maddon pushed a lot of bullpen buttons, not going to Wade Davis for a four-out save and then summoning the All-Star closer when Hector Rondon couldn’t work with a five-run cushion.

In a dramatic finish, Davis survived giving up three hits, a walk and a wild pitch, striking out Ryan Zimmerman with a curveball to end a game that lasted 3 hours and 54 minutes.

“To play so well and not win that game would have really been awful,” Maddon said.

The Cubs needed this with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg looming the next two nights. But for all of their talent and regular-season dominance – three division titles since 2012 and close to a 100-win pace this year – the Nationals still haven’t won a playoff series in a city where the Senators once won it all in 1924.

This could be an epic matchup in October, bursting with stars and pumping with bad blood. Just listen to Baker during his pregame media briefing, responding to a question about a power hitter like Anthony Rizzo batting leadoff: “I ain’t worried about the Cubs. They can do their thing.”

Or Baker dismissing Maddon’s mind games and the possibility of intentionally walking Harper when Zimmerman is a Triple Crown contender: “It’s a new time and a new day.”

The last word from Maddon, who keeps insisting the 39-37 Cubs have a hot streak in them and that he digs the youth movement: “If this was a spring training lineup, we might get a call.”