Cubs

Marmol says he deserves the boos, and will take the heat

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Marmol says he deserves the boos, and will take the heat

When things go wrong, Carlos Marmol doesnt hide. The Cubs closer posts up at his locker and is willing to take the heat.

By now, Marmol knows the expectations around here, how much the fans want him to get the job done. So his reaction to all the booing at Wrigley Field is about what youd expect.

I deserve it all, Marmol said. Its OK.

The media pretty much left Marmol alone after Wednesdays 5-1 loss to the Cardinals. He had pitched a scoreless ninth inning, but thats not really a story.

Marmol can be an afterthought when the Cubs dont score runs and their rotation flickers in and out. The night before, Matt Holliday had muscled a 2-2 slider over the wall in left-center.

Marmol had waited 16 days for a save opportunity. Holliday a man with a World Series ring and a 120 million contract ruined it with a go-ahead, two-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning.

I say it every time the games not easy, Marmol said. Anybody who thinks that game is easy is wrong.

That was essentially Dale Sveums takeaway, giving credit to Holliday, and not setting off any warning flares about Marmol, who has held the opponent scoreless in six of his last seven appearances.

The players respect that the Cubs manager appreciates how hard this game can be, and it will provide cover during a rebuilding year.

Its not that easy to always get a one-run save, Sveum said. The other guys on the other side of the fence are paid a lot of money to hit home runs. Sometimes they catch one. Other nights, its the same exact pitch and its a pop-up to the infield.

So theres no closer controversy here. Sveum gave Marmol the vote of confidence, but in the ninth inning theres really nowhere else to turn. Theres no timetable for Kerry Woods return from the disabled list.

Sean Marshall is closing for Dusty Baker in Cincinnati. Andrew Cashner is throwing 100 mph heat for San Diego. Jeff Samardzija got what he wanted, the chance to show he belongs in the rotation.

Lets be honest, weve taken away from the bullpen, Theo Epstein said near the end of spring training. Thats a huge void. Thats a good bullpen right there, just with those guys weve taken away.

Across the past six months, Epsteins front office has already stripped apart the bullpen, waved goodbye to Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, and paid roughly 20 million to get rid of Carlos Zambrano and Marlon Byrd.

A closer whos owed almost 6.2 million for the rest of this season, and 9.8 million next season, could be considered a luxury item for a team thats in rebuilding mode.

Either way, the Cubs are looking toward the future, which is why theyre carrying Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo, and hoping for breakthroughs from Rafael Dolis, James Russell and Michael Bowden out of the bullpen.

We knew coming in that was going to be an issue for us to address, Epstein said. To be honest with you, most clubs address it all year long. So whatever seven guys out of the pen we start the season withthats not necessarily the final answer.

Lets be realistic, theres going to be tweaking and adjusting based on performance and health and attrition throughout the course of a whole season. Its a challenge for us, given what weve taken out of the bullpen, but its also an opportunity.

Were going to be pretty young (and) inexperienced. Its a chance for some guys to develop over the course of this season.

They wont want to copy Marmols off-the-wall mechanics, but they could learn something from a guy with a short memory whos taken the ball 400 times for the Cubs.

I dont make excuses, Marmol said. Whatever you got, you give it that day.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

Mark Schanowski, Mark Carman and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel.

0:00- The Cubs take 2 out of 3 from the D'Backs thanks to a surprisingly solid start from Tyler Chatwood. Should the Cubs trust him more than they trust Yu Darvish? Meanwhile, the bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

12:00- The guys preview the huge series against the Dodgers at Wrigley.

16:00- The White Sox lose 2 of 3 in Detroit but Kap is still excited about the future.

20:00- The NBA Eastern Conference playoffs are becoming a fight. So who will win the East? And can anybody even threaten the Warriors?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Cubs pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

Cubs pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

After starting the season 2-7 on the road, two weeks without Jon Lester looked like a possible death sentence for the Cubs. Instead, it now looks like a turning point.

Somebody needed to step up. Anybody. Bullpen or rotation, but preferably both. Well, that is exactly what happened and the Cubs are quickly back to the .500 mark at 10-10.

Jose Quintana was the first to accept the challenge, dominating the surprising Pirates with the eleven strikeouts and then seven shutout innings against the lowly Marlins in his next outing. He pitched "like a Porcshe" while attacking batters in both games with precision handling and it was contagious. Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood followed his lead while the bullpen turned around their production, too.

Our stats guru, Chris Kamka, offered up these facts to show the startling improvements.

In the first nine games, the Cubs' team ERA, starter ERA and reliever ERA all ranked 29th or worse in MLB. It's a team game, but it was obvious which part of the team was struggling. Over the last 11 games, everything has changed. Since that opening road trip from Hell, the Cubs have led the majors in all three categories. The relievers have posted a 1.85 ERA and the starters are at a blistering 1.66 ERA with six quality starts since Lester went on the injured list. 

Yes, it's a small sample size in a 162 game season. However, if we're going to overreact to a disastrous start, it's only fair to also hyperbolize this spectacular stretch. We asked for somebody to step-up. The Cubs' pitching staff did just that.    

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