CHICAGO -- Losing in late-inning meltdowns, may be the most demoralizing circumstance for a baseball team to overcome. The Chicago Cubs have become experts in losing close games that should be going into the win column.
The poster child for the team’s early-season woes has been reliever Carlos Marmol. The highly-paid and one-time All-Star caliber closer has lost his pitching mojo from when he used to baffle hitters.
Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio did wonders with the 30-year-old Dominican pitcher last year, helping Marmol learn to reestablish his fastball. Bosio is now left with the dubious role of salvaging the pitcher’s psyche for the second time in two seasons.
“The biggest thing for Carlos is concentration pitch-to-pitch,” Bosio said. “Bottom line for him and everyone else is we have to do our part and be better across the board.”
Marmol’s most recent late-inning malfunction occurred on Saturday when he entered the game with a two-run lead in the eighth inning. Marmol walked two men and hit another batter, prompting manager Dale Sveum to remove him from the game before he had registered an out. Cincinnati scored four runs in the inning to steal a win from the Cubs.
“We are in no different situation than we were yesterday,” Sveum said. “Obviously he had a bad outing and he couldn’t throw strikes, but nothing has changed in that fashion. He is one of the seven guys and he has to pitch. We will get him back out there in some fashion.”
Marmol continues to work hard and listen to the coaching staff’s instruction, despite becoming the epicenter for Cubs fans frustrations. On Sunday he threw one perfect inning, striking out one.
“I think he trusts his stuff,” said Bosio. “He just has to execute the pitch. Sometimes this game just speeds up for all of us. You just have to slow it down and see the catcher’s signs and see the glove.”
Marmol had made some strides since losing his closer’s role in the first week of the season. He had put together 10 straight scoreless outings from April 8 through May 2.
“Yesterday he got going too quick,” Bosio said. “He is an up-tempo guy and when he gets going too quick he gets out of whack. Carlos is no different than some of our other guys. He has a very important role, normally when he is in a game the game is tied or we have a lead. He has to be better.”
Bosio did say that Marmol, like all accomplished athletes, visualizes success and seeks to create that vision when he enters a game. The major problem for Marmol is that hitters no longer swing and miss at his once unhittable slider. The new approach to the pitcher is to work the balls and strikes, then hit the fastball when he gets behind in the count.
Marmol has blown two of four save opportunities and has a 2-2 record with a 6.17 ERA.