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.

Preview: Cubs open series with Pirates tonight on CSN

Preview: Cubs open series with Pirates tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Catch first pitch at 6 p.m. with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Kyle Hendricks (15-8, 2.06 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (5-3, 3.73 ERA)

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David Ross helps Cubs edge Cardinals in regular season home finale

David Ross helps Cubs edge Cardinals in regular season home finale

CHICAGO — David Ross got fired up when Cubs manager Joe Maddon walked to the mound with two out in the seventh inning, ready to argue for Jon Lester to stay in the game.

Maddon and Lester had a different plan.

"Joe looked at him and said 'Have you ever been a part of where the catcher gets taken out of the game before the pitcher?'" Lester said, describing the scene with a big grin. "You can just see him, it's like the kid at the candy store when you tell him he can pick out whatever he wants.

"It was just like the disbelief in his face and slams his mask back over his face and all he can say is 'I love you guys. I love you guys. I love you guys.'"

Ross then walked off to another standing ovation from a raucous crowd of 40,859 at Wrigley Field, part of a heartwarming Sunday night for the backup catcher in his last season. He also hit his 10th homer and teamed with Lester for another scoreless performance, helping the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

"It was an amazing night," Ross said.

Ben Zobrist had three hits and scored two runs as Chicago finished with a major league-best 57-24 home record. It's the most home wins for the Cubs since they went 58-19 at the West Side Grounds in 1910.

The Cardinals lost for the third time in four games, wasting a chance to improve their playoff positioning. They remain a half-game back of San Francisco for the second NL wild card after the Giants lost 4-3 at San Diego earlier in the day.

"I think we're in a good position right now," pitcher Carlos Martinez said through a translator. "I also think we have a great shot at winning the World Series."

Ross, Lester's regular catcher, was greeted with a long standing ovation when he came to the plate in the second inning. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina walked halfway to the mound, forcing the unassuming Ross to take in the moment, and he took off his batting helmet to acknowledge the cheering crowd.

Ross then struck out, but he got another chance in the fifth and drove Martinez's second pitch over the wall in left for 1-0 lead. Ross clapped his hands as he rounded first on his 10th homer and the cheers continued after he reached the dugout, prompting a curtain call.

"It was just fitting that David would hit a home run, isn't it?" Maddon said. "I mean it had to have happened tonight."

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Lester (19-4), one of the top candidates for the NL Cy Young Award, struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander allowed three hits and walked one while improving to 10-0 with 1.34 ERA in his last 13 starts.

It was Lester's idea to pull Ross in the middle of an inning.

"He's like a brother to me and for him to give me that was pretty cool," Ross said.

The Cardinals pulled within one on Jhonny Peralta's two-out RBI single in the eighth, but Brandon Moss flied to center with runners on the corners. Willson Contreras responded with an RBI single in the bottom half and Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth for his 16th save with the NL Central champions and No. 36 on the year.

Martinez (15-9), pitching with a heavy heart after the death of Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident, allowed two runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked four.

"He had lots of juice," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's probably the hardest sinker I've ever seen him throw. A couple of those were 97 (mph). He was locked in. He wanted it bad today, and he was good enough for us to win."