The right stuff: Marmol built for the ninth inning

The right stuff: Marmol built for the ninth inning
April 17, 2011, 1:57 am
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Saturday, April 16, 2011
Posted: 8:53 p.m. Updated: 10:13 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

DENVER No one talks to Carlos Marmol when he does his job.

The media herd backed away after the Cubs closer finished dissecting his first blown save of the season. Marmol looked them over and said: I want to see you all here tomorrow when I strike out the side.

Marmol wasnt trying to intimidate anyone. He wasnt being defensive. He was looking forward to a new day.

I try to be funny sometimes, Marmol said. Im not a funny guy, but I try to (be one). I was joking around. That doesnt bother me. Ill talk about whatevers bad, whatevers good. Im going to be here for you guys.

Marmol is confident, low-maintenance and fearless. He usually punctuates his thoughts with a laugh or a smile or a curse word. He hates getting booed at Wrigley Field. Win or lose, you always know where to find him standing at his locker ready to answer questions.

Ozzie Guillen was right the other day when he said that a closer in Chicago needs to have guts. But the White Sox manager was wrong to think that Marmol doesnt face his critics or gets a free pass because he doesnt understand English.

The meltdowns the White Sox bullpen has experienced in the seasons first two weeks reminded you how valuable Marmol will be for the Cubs.

The sample size is too small to say definitively that Matt Thornton cant close on the South Side, and its too early to declare Sergio Santos or Chris Sale absolutely ready for the job. But theres no denying the corrosive effects losing late leads can have on a clubhouse.

As a player, when youre winning a ballgame into the ninth inning, its tough to lose (like that), Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. The closers know it and thats why when youre a good one, you get paid. You make good money because there arent too many good ones out there.

General manager Jim Hendry recognized that when he gave Marmol a three-year, 20 million deal in February. The Cubs have known Marmol since he signed with the organization as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic.

The Cubs couldnt know for certain that Marmol would have what it takes to be a closer he was a converted position player but eventually they had a pretty good idea he could handle it.

When discussing potential trades several years ago, the front office made Marmol untouchable, off-limits to any team scouting the minor-league system. Since taking over as closer in August 2009, Marmol has converted 91 percent of his save opportunities (53-for-58).

Hes got the stuff and hes got the attitude, Ramirez said. To be a closer anywhere, you got to have the kind of mentality that he has. Not only in Chicago. To be a closer in Pittsburgh, you got to have (it). Anywhere you close, its tough, man. When you blow it, you got to be ready for the next day.

So when Marmol loses the game like he did on April 3 against the Pittsburgh Pirates he will go out to dinner and watch a movie at home. He will go to work on April 4 as if nothings happened and finish off the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Same routine, Marmol said. I dont change.

There will be times where Marmol looks helpless on the mound. He has no feel for his slider and cant find the strike zone. But that unpredictability how sharp, where and when the slider will break makes him almost unhittable.

In the end, Marmol understands how this works. The closer has become so automatic that its only a story when he blows a save.

Of course, Marmol said with a laugh one day, sitting at his locker. I want all you (expletive) here. I strike out the side and nobody talks to me.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.