The expectations around Carlos Marmol are much more modest now. The Cubs closer still has 20 million guaranteed, and its his job to lose (again).
An All-Star setup guy in 2008, Marmol notched 38 saves in 2010 and finished with 138 strikeouts in 77.2 innings. That 15.99 rate per nine innings pitched is the second-highest mark for a reliever in major-league history.
But manager Dale Sveum will simply settle for Marmol throwing a fastball for strike one.
The Cubs reinstalled Marmol as closer and watched him escape a bases-loaded jam during Fridays 3-0 win over the Boston Red Sox. The 40,000-plus at Wrigley Field stood up and watched Marmol earn his first save since May 2.
The hope is that Marmol who has caused so much cover-your-eyes anxiety among Cubs fans can stabilize the bullpen.
It's huge, Sveum said Saturday. Youve got a guy who has obviously done it before. Just get him on track to be able to throw strikes. Thats all you want. I don't care if anybody goes out there and throws strikes and blows a save.
Thats part of the game sometimes. (Its) just staying away from the blown saves because of walks and breakdowns like that.
Marmol is owed almost 4.2 million through the rest of this season, plus 9.8 million in 2013, and the Cubs wouldnt mind showcasing him in high-leverage situations again.
Marmol has been listening to the coaching staff and evolving beyond the slider, throwing his fastball 51.5 percent of the time, up from 36 percent last season, according to FanGraphs.com. The online database also indicates his fastball is back up to an average of 93.4 mph.
Its not just the velocity. Sveum thinks Marmol is finally starting to get his swagger back.
That was the first time I thought he came to the mound with that look, that attitude that you want in a closer, Sveum said. He (was) like, Lets go, game on, I dont care about the past. You could see the emotion. There was a conviction he was throwing the baseball with (and) thats where we want (him to be).