Bulls

Cubs arent worrying about Marmol yet

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Cubs arent worrying about Marmol yet

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.

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

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Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

Only an errant punch that missed the face of Serge Ibaka prevented Robin Lopez from suiting up for the Bulls since arriving in the summer of 2016, but his availability streak will come to an abrupt end as the Bulls are sitting and Justin Holiday for the foreseeable future.

Lopez didn’t dress for the Bulls’ game against the 76ers, as he and Holiday were replaced by Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba. Although he was jovial, cracking a few jokes when meeting with the media in pregame, it was clear he was disappointed.

“It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it,” Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. That’s what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I’m excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench.”

With the Bulls being eighth in the lottery standings, Lopez understands the long-term objectives of the organization and said the conversation with the front office went as expected.

“I think pretty much what everybody else has heard,” Lopez said. “I was pulled aside. They told me they wanted to evaluate a few other guys, a few of the young guys. So I get it.”

Starting 138 of 139 games makes his streak ending a bit tougher to stomach, especially considering he didn’t find out about his certain inactivity until right before leaving for the United Center.

“I suppose that’s a little selfish of me, but a little bit,” said Lopez of sadness concerning the streak. “I looked in my closet today and thought I would have a glut of jackets. And I only found two. I didn’t realize this was an issue until about 5 minutes before I had to leave. So I got kind of a ragtag outfit for tonight but hopefully I’ll be better prepared in the games to come.”

Not only will he be armed with better wardrobe but he’ll be bringing a positive disposition to the sidelines that made him loved amongst his teammates.

“All my teammates, whether they’ve been playing with me or sitting on the bench and not dressing, they’ve all supported me,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I’d be too good a person if I didn’t do at least the bare minimum of the same.”

Lopez represented stability and veteran leadership in a tumultuous season, a solid performer when losing was the early norm and upheaval has been constant. It was a reason the Bulls hoped he would garner some interest in the trade market but after hitting for a draft pick in the Nikola Mirotic deal, they had no such luck with Lopez.

Naturally, he was asked about the prospect of being traded over sitting as a healthy scratch.

“That’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t know what situation I could have potentially been in once I had been traded,” Lopez said. “Yeah, it’s … I want to be playing obviously, but we’ve got a great group of guys right here.”

Considering how uncertain things will be for the future, it isn’t a guarantee Lopez won’t be around for the 2018-19 season.

“Yeah. It seems like they still like me. How could they not?,” he joked.

He’s due $14.3 million next season, the last of a four-year deal he signed with the Knicks in 2015. Averaging 12.3 points and shooting 53 percent from the field, he’s productive and valuable on the floor. He’s easy to dismiss with the hoopla surrounding the youth on the roster and the way things clicked when Mirotic stepped on the floor, but seven footers like Lopez aren’t easy to find—even as the game changes.

“I’m a team player. I like to think my play is tied to how the team plays,” Lopez said. “I think we had some really great stretches. The young guys really developed and found a rhythm once we all got healthy. I think we played pretty well.”

With 25 games remaining, he’s unsure of how long his inactivity will last but it’s hard to see him missing the remainder of the season. It would be a bad look for the Bulls and the league to have a healthy player miss two whole months, and Lopez claims no knowledge about that ugly “T” word.

“I’m not familiar with military artillery,” he said.

At least he’s keeping his sense of humor.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

On today’s edition of STL Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by Mark Schanowski, Nick Friedell and Vincent Goodwill to talk all things Bulls. Will the Bulls complete “The Process” as well as the visiting 76ers have so far? Our panel discusses the tank watch, recaps the epic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal game and much, much more.