If the Chicago Cubs’ new coaching staff is right, one easy change could be all it takes to fix what went wrong with closer Carlos Marmol last season, when he led the majors in blown saves with 10.
In one of new pitching coach Chris Bosio’s first conversations with Marmol this spring, he suggested the right-hander drop the cut fastball he began throwing last year – a pitch some Cubs personnel weren’t even aware Marmol was trying to throw.
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But new manager Dale Sveum, as a Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach, and Bosio, as a Brewers advance scout part of last season, both were aware of something strange – and less effective – being thrown by Marmol.
”We were thinking, `What’s he doing? Is that a bad slider?”’ Sveum said.
”I threw it a little bit, and it didn’t work for me,” Marmol acknowledged this week as pitchers and catchers reported for spring training. ”Yeah, I got a little lost. My slider got a little lost because I worked on that.”
After signing a three-year, $20-million contract last spring, Marmol had his worst season as a late-inning reliever, converting just 34 of 44 save opportunities as his ERA jumped nearly a point and a half to 4.01.
His 10 blown saves were tied with the Angels’ Jordan Walden (42 chances) for most in the majors.
One of many things that went wrong with that 2011 fifth-place Cubs team, Marmol’s woes increased as the season wore on – he was 0-4, with a 5.91 ERA after the All-Star break.
”To be honest with you, I lost a lot of confidence in the last month,” he said. ”But, you know, it’s a new year. I try to forget about last year, and now here we are.”
Marmol, who insisted his new contract was not a factor in his struggles, makes $7 million this season and $9.8 million next year as the top-dollar years kick in on the deal.
At the very least, the Cubs expect to find out quickly how well that money was spent. In a best-case scenario, he becomes an important part of the plans if an overhauled starting rotation produces well enough to keep the Cubs in contention into late summer.
”He is what he is. He’s an impressive closer,” Sveum said, ”but he’s a slider guy with one of the best, unhittable sliders we’ve seen in a long time.”
Notes: INF Blake DeWitt, who was designated for assignment earlier this month to make room for infielder Adrian Cardenas and subsequently cleared waivers, accepted the club’s non-roster offer and is expected in camp on time this week. By accepting the offer, he retains his guaranteed $1.1 million salary negotiated last month. . LHP John Gaub (back spasms) missed the first two days of spring workouts but is expected to return to work this week.