Marmol struggles in 25-pitch inning

Carlos Villanueva pitched four innings against the White Sox, allowing a home run to Paul Konerko. AP Photo/Morry Gash

MESA, Ariz. -- With trade rumors swirling and several teams looking for closers, Carlos Marmol wasn't exactly impressive on Thursday against the Chicago White Sox. He gave up a run in 2/3 of an inning which was extended because of an error at third base and was pulled mid-inning.

"He was at 25 pitches," manager Dale Sveum said. "He's out of the inning if we catch the ball at third base. The guy hits a slider for a double. Other than that he was just kind of missing with his slider and his fastball. He wasn't awful by no means."

That defense of Marmol rings hollow. After the error by third baseman Christian Villanueva, Marmol threw a wild pitch and walked two batters. And isn't there something to picking up your teammates when they err behind a pitcher? Marmol wasn't able to do that.

"He got the pitch count up," Sveum said. "The last guy laid off some pretty good sliders. Like I said if we catch the ball at third it's a different story."

Marmol's spring ERA is 4.91.

Villanueva's outing: Carlos Villanueva called his role in baseball "under-appreciated" after throwing four innings on Thursday. Villanueva is the Cubs' long reliever/spot starter but with Matt Garza and Scott Baker ailing, he'll probably begin the season in the rotation.

"It's easier to prepare as a starter," Villaneuva said. "You have to have a bit of a rubber arm."

Villanueva is coming along. He threw 53 pitches, got hit hard in some cases but didn't walk anyone. He didn't even mind his home run ball to Paul Konerko in the 8-3 loss.

"I threw the ball exactly where I wanted to throw it ... but it's Konerko," Villanueva said with a smile. "If someone's going to do it's him. Hopefully the wind is blowing in at Wrigley and that's a pop up to left."

Villanueva said his role would be a tough one to define if he ever went to salary arbitration, but he knows it's appreciated in baseball.

"If I was managing I would want at least two guys that can do what I've done," he said.

With a two-year deal in place, Villanueva says he's not feeling the pressure to be a starter. He'll do what's asked of him, no matter when he's asked.

"I've been in the bathroom 10 minutes before the game and found out I was starting," Villanueva said. "It doesn't matter."

Baker update: Scott Baker, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, threw 31 pitches in a simulated game. He's scheduled to pitch in a minor league game next week before possibly getting in a Cactus League start.

"He actually got up to 89 mph in the second inning so he let it go today," Sveum said. "He felt good, finished good, especially that second inning. He cranked it up a little bit."

Sveum said how Baker responds on Friday, after throwing hard on Thursday, is a "big issue."

The quote: "Robin (Ventura) is just a quiet guy. He lets you take care of your business. Dale (Sveum) is really a big teacher. He's always trying to push you a little further." -- Brent Lillibridge, who played under both managers.