SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Carlos Marmol was frustrated enough to flip over a garbage can in the clubhouse.
Its only spring training, but everythings magnified when youre making big money and coming off a down year. Thats the nature of the job. Closers usually get noticed only when they mess up.
Marmol apologized for the outburst on Monday and sat quietly at his locker. In his last two appearances combined, the Cubs closer has allowed seven runs on six hits, walked two batters and hit two more.
Concerned? manager Dale Sveum said Tuesday. No, breaking balls like his arent going to do a lot down here in Arizona. Youre always going to struggle with it and youre going to try and throw it harder and make it spin more. Its actually a counter-effect. But I think all along we just want to get his fastball command (back). Thats his biggest thing.
The Cubs have told Marmol to abandon his cutter and say that has helped his velocity tick back toward 94 mph. Twelve months after being rewarded with a three-year, 20 million contract, he appeared to be in better shape after losing around 10 pounds.
The people that have been around him know that hes been working as hard as he ever has, Sveum said. Its just a confidence thing.
Marmols mechanics are difficult to keep in line because he has such a violent, unique delivery, but the Cubs have stressed a few minor adjustments that he will have to internalize once the game speeds up.
Even if Marmol was pitching lights out, would it really matter? You cant draw conclusions yet, even after a season in which he led the majors with 10 blown saves and briefly lost the closers job.
Dont try to crank the breaking ball, Sveum said. Its not going to work in Arizona. Theres no air here. Nobodys breaking balls really break here. Thats why you see a lot of 15-14 games. Its a lot of fastballs and a lot of breaking balls that dont break that much. You just got to be careful of getting frustrated with that.
So theres no closer controversy yet. But Sveum says there could be as many as four if not five spots available in the bullpen (depending, in part, on whether or not Jeff Samardzija makes the rotation), making it a huge question mark.
One or two bad innings cant break a five-year window. Between 2007 and 2011, no reliever in baseball notched more strikeouts than Marmols 540 Jonathan Papelbon was second at 400 or had a lower batting average against (.164).
Marmol just has to remember what it takes. His manager isnt looking at other options.
Closers are meant to be closers because they can handle those last three outs, Sveum said. Its not that easy to find people. They might have the stuff, but they dont have the makeup to get those last three outs.