Exploring the options at closer

ATLANTA -- So now that Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum has intimated a change is coming in the closer's role, who should get the job to replace Carlos Marmol?

"You got [Shawn] Camp and [James] Russell; they seem to be pretty efficient when they pitch," Sveum said after his team blew a late four-run lead Saturday and ultimately lost to the Atlanta Braves 6-5. "They've never had to do the last three outs of the game but there is a mix of pitches; those are options."

And of course so is Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa, but he was hit hard Saturday as well. Fujikawa gave up three runs.

"Fujikawa struggled, too," Sveum said. "He didn't have his split today. It was flat, didn't do anything."

But that's the first time Fujikawa has shown any signs of struggling, and he did get out of the eighth with a double-play ball and the Cubs still leading. Then came Marmol's latest blow-up: two ninth-inning home runs to the Upton brothers.

Right now, the unknown is probably better than the known, so Camp and Russell or Fujikawa are simply better options. It can't get worse -- Fujikawa did close games in Japan for 12 years, and Sveum called Camp and Russell the team's MVPs last season.

Meanwhile, Marmol simply isn't the same guy who recorded a 1.52 ERA while converting 12 of 13 saves in the second half last season.

"I'm trying," he said. "I want to be that guy. One hundred percent."

He just can't try to be that guy in the ninth anymore. Maybe Russell and Camp are the right choices for now. Sveum will have to mix and match the lefty and righty in an unconventional style, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The Cubs' starting staff is pitching too well to see leads given away so late.

The Cubs could have seen this coming but chose to ignore a bad finish to spring training for Marmol. Including his first three appearances in the regular season, he has given up runs in six straight games going back to Cactus League play. The Cubs still thought he was going to be the pitcher of the second half of last season, but they were wrong.


-- The Cubs came into Saturday night's game with a total of 16 hits in four games. They had 13 in a losing effort. Every Cub in the starting lineup had at least one hit, including pitcher Carlos Villanueva.

-- Villanueva threw 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He struck out six and threw very well in his Cubs debut.

-- Justin Upton homered in the first and ninth innings Saturday as well as going deep in Friday's series opener. Brother B.J. also homered in the ninth, marking the 25th time in major league history that brothers have hit home runs in the same game as teammates.