Cubs will face more questions about closer situation

Cubs will face more questions about closer situation
May 30, 2013, 6:00 pm
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The Cubs said it repeatedly over the winter and throughout spring training: Carlos Marmol is our closer. And then he lost his job five games into the season.

But with Kyuji Fujikawa the latest Cubs pitcher becoming a case study in Tommy John surgery, do you see a scenario where Marmol begins closing again this year?

"To be honest with you, I hope not," manager Dale Sveum said before Thursday's 8-3 win over the White Sox at Wrigley Field. "Not taking anything away from him - he's pitched really good in what he's had to do - but that obviously means that (Kevin) Gregg's not doing a very good job."

And Gregg has been lights out since getting released by the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 3, signing a minor-league deal with the Cubs 12 days later and going 6-for-6 in save chances. He hadn't allowed an earned run in 14 straight outings before giving up one in the ninth inning on Thursday, raising his ERA to 0.63.

That performance could make Gregg a movable asset by the July 31 trade deadline, probably not as the closer on a World Series team, but certainly a nice bullpen piece for a contender.

[RELATED: Fujikawa out for year]

"We cross those bridges when we get to them," Sveum said. "But right now, we're worried about today. We're not worried about what happens at the trade deadline and all that. You can't do that."

That kind of lightning-in-a-bottle signing seemed like the way Theo Epstein's front office would like to identify a closer.

When asked last October how he'd go about finding a closer if the roster didn't have one, Epstein didn't sound interested in a cult of personality or paying top dollar. The Cubs could grow one organically.

"I would look at it as an opportunity to try to give someone an opportunity," Epstein said then. "Either internally - a pitcher that we believed in and liked and exposed them to that role (so he) could maybe develop into that type of asset.

"Or go outside the organization and try to buy low on a pitcher that we really liked and then build value by putting him in that role. (That's) value for the Cubs, and then if our season doesn't turn out the way we want it to - potential value in a trade."

Most of Fujikawa's time across a two-year, $9.5 million deal - which contains a 2015 option - will be spent rehabbing from elbow-reconstruction surgery.

Marmol has spent his entire career in the Cubs organization and will make $9.8 million in the final year of his contract. Even after all the ups and downs, he's open to the idea of returning to the North Side next season, though that long-shot scenario would involve a huge discount and little chance of closing.

Marmol has allowed only one run across his last nine appearances, quietly lowering his ERA to 3.86.

Sveum didn't want to get into who might handle the ninth inning in 2014.

"That's a long ways away," Sveum said. "I got enough to worry about right now besides next year's closer."