Marmol struggles but keeps his job

Carlos Marmol rekindled some bad memories from last season on Monday in Pittsburgh. Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH -- Despite a near Opening Day ninth-inning meltdown by Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum insists he's still going to finish games.

"He's still the closer," Sveum said after the Cubs' 3-1 victory on Monday over the Pittsburgh Pirates. "I'm not making any changes or anything like that. He just didn't have it today."

The same could be said about his last two appearances in spring training when Marmol struggled with his control. The Cubs were quick to point out he was solid before those struggles but then dismissed his last two games as "just spring training."

Then came Monday.

Marmol entered the game with a 3-0 lead. He struck out the first batter on a 3-2 count, then hit a man, gave up a run-scoring single and then walked the next batter before being pulled.

"Those last three outs are hard to get," Sveum said. "No matter who's on the mound. Marmol really didn't have it today so I went to a couple other guys to get those last two outs."

James Russell and newcomer Kyuji Fujikawa preserved the win but Sveum was lucky he had them available. Starter Jeff Samardzija conserved his pitch count in the middle innings allowing him to go eight innings -- which meant Sveum's set-up men were available as Marmol started to struggle. That won't always be the case.

"That's what teammates do," Marmol said. "They pick you up."

Marmol said he "felt good" on the mound and classified his outing as "struggling a little bit."

This is old news for Cubs fans. Marmol struggled in April last season but was able to right the ship in the final few months of the season. But the end of his spring brought back those bad memories. Still, the Cubs stuck by him -- despite nearly trading him to the Los Angeles Angels this past offseason.

"He's a veteran getting ready for the season," president Theo Epstein said before the game. "Performance wise you could pick apart his last couple outings (of spring)...but the reality with him we wanted to see signs that the guy from the last three and half months of the season was still there. And if you look beyond the performance at the end I think you saw a lot of those signs."

Not Monday.