NEW YORK At the end of the night, its just Carlos Marmol alone on the mound.
The 40,000 fans at Wrigley Field can boo, but it wont make a difference. The coaching staff can come up with the game plan, but its on the Cubs closer to execute. At that point, Dale Sveum feels like his job is over the manager can only watch.
Would you sign up for this white-knuckle ride?
The Cubs will almost certainly be asking some version of this question through the end of July. If you are a general manager, trading for Marmol would mean pacing around the luxury suite during all those high-stress innings.
Theo Epsteins front office inherited Marmol, whos still owed 13.3 million through the end of this season and next. With that violent delivery, Marmol doesnt make it look easy. But he earned that big contract by developing into an All-Star setup guy and a dominant closer for a time, converting 49 of 54 save chances from the end of 2009 through 2010.
I dont know what they think about me, Marmol said. I dont think about trades. I dont want to leave Chicago, though. I want to be on (this) team.
Marmol who as a teenager in the Dominican Republic signed with the Cubs 13 years ago this week has spent almost half his life in the organization.
I dont want to go nowhere else, Marmol said. I just want to stay here. Chicagos like home for me.
For now, the Cubs are working with what they have, and breathing a sigh of relief on nights like Friday, when Marmol nearly blew a four-run lead against the New York Mets at Citi Field.
Marmol gave up three runs on three walks and two hits before jamming Lucas Duda and getting a double play on a line drive back to the mound.
After barely hanging on for an 8-7 victory, Sveums message to Marmol on Saturday went like this: Dont read too much into it.
It wasnt like you were all over the place, Sveum said. You were just missing some sliders. Things didnt work out, but the bottom line is you got the out when you had to. You still came back and you made the pitches.
I told him on paper it didnt look too good, (but) weve seen the other ones (that were) much worse. The bottom line was we won the game, and thats all that counts.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but the Cubs have been encouraged by Marmols progress since losing the closers job in early May and getting it back, in part, because they didnt really have any other options.
Prior to Friday nights near meltdown, Marmol had allowed only one run in his last 10 appearances, converting six straight save opportunities, and picking up his 100th career save.
I feel confident and comfortable, Marmol said. I feel great on the mound. This is a good point. Well see. You never know when its going to happen. I hope that I can keep going, still doing the same thing.
Part of it has been buying into a coaching staff that leans heavily on video and statistical analysis and has very clear ideas about what should happen each at-bat. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told MLB.com that Marmol owes a case of wine if he shakes off the catcher.
The slider made Marmol a fortune, but there was the growing sense that he had to evolve beyond that one pitch, a point most famously made during Carlos Zambranos We stinks! rant last season.
Hes got to establish his fastball and get more swings and misses and get back in counts with (it), Sveum said. Hes starting to understand that: Wow, this is something that works. (Its) not shaking off. (Its going with) whatever the catcher puts down.
(It) takes the thought process out of everything. He can visualize the pitch beforehand, instead of shaking off and going right to another pitch. I think hes slowed things down out there.
Is that enough to entice a team that needs bullpen help? Would you trust a reliever with 28 walks in 25.2 innings in a high-leverage situation? Maybe this is an intriguing project (even for the Cubs): Someone whos 29 and notched 138 strikeouts in 77.2 innings only two years ago.
Hes matured a lot, Sveum said. (He understands) those games are going to happen. And being a closer you cant (revert) back to pitching away from contact.
The bottom line is just get that final out. Sometimes (thats not) gonna happen, but it doesnt mean that youre going to lose your job or anything like that as long as youre throwing strikes and youre around the strike zone.
It can be all anxiety in the ninth inning, but there is something endearing about Marmol, whether its his deep voice, quick smile andor love of swear words. On Saturday he turned a corner in the clubhouse and nearly bumped into Anthony Rizzo, the hyped rookie, and barked: You again?
The other day in Atlanta, Marmol entertained himself (and Matt Garza) by swinging a putter like a driver it looked like he had never golfed before and didnt know there was a difference between the two clubs and hitting ice chips into lockers (and at teammates). Marmol then pumped his fist in celebration and said it was his Tiger Woods impersonation.
Slowly, Marmol is trying to get his swagger back. He believes he can perform at a high level again. Buckle up.
I got confidence in myself, Marmol said. Everybody lost confidence in my pitching, but at that point I still believed in myself. I still think I can do that. I feel I can close some games out there.