Cubs' bullpen settling down around Marmol

CHICAGO – Carlos Marmol is showing how one man’s fastball can have a ripple effect on his own team.

The Cubs’ coaching staff had implored Marmol to use his fastball more and stop relying solely on his slider. Seemingly afraid to get hit hard, Marmol was going predominantly to his slider and teams were laying off it, waiting for walks.

With runners on base, Marmol was left to throw pitches over the heart of the plate and he was getting beat.

Now that he is throwing the fastball more regularly Marmol has been much improved. He still doesn’t instill ultimate confidence, but he has saves in each of his last three outings and five out of the last six times he has taken the mound.

Marmol’s fastball is now making his slider more effective and even when it is in the dirt he is getting batters to swing and miss again.

“There's no question (the fastball has helped),” manager Dale Sveum said. “He's throwing his fastball in the strike zone. If he doesn't, it's just missing and he's able to come back and do some things. He's still going to throw his slider, but his fastball is still going to be very important to be able to throw, especially the velocity. Hitters see 94, 95 (mph) and it speeds them up.”

With Marmol back in the fold as closer, the rest of the bullpen can settle into roles. Relievers have always been known as creatures of habit.

That settled bullpen was able to deliver 3 2/3 scoreless innings from five relievers Saturday to hold off the Houston Astros for a victory.

“It gets the bullpen a little more stable with Marmol going back in the closer role and (James) Russell and (Shawn) Camp being able to mix and match in the seventh or eighth innings,” Sveum said. “(Manuel) Corpas has done a nice job against right-handed hitters, so you're able to mix and match from the sixth through the ninth inning.”