Cubs ponder change at closer

CINCINNATI -- Manager Dale Sveum has given Carlos Marmol as much rope as possible, and it seems that the Chicago Cubs closer gets more and more entangled in it.

Or is that the former Cubs closer?

Sveum finally mentioned changes at the back end of the bullpen after Marmol melted down again, failing to preserve a three-run ninth-inning lead against the Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs lost 4-3 in 10 innings.

"There's definitely the thought of (a change) now," Sveum said. "I can't lie to you."

Sveum said that left-hander James Russell and right-hander Rafael Dolis are his main options to close, but didn't clarify if he means they would share the role or he favors one over the other.

The coaching staff has been telling Marmol repeatedly to throw strikes with his fastball. The fact that he continues to miss the plate with his slider is what has made things the most troubling.

"It's the same story again," Sveum said. "Throwing 3-0 sliders when you have three-run leads is just not acceptable. Nothing else can happen except a two-run homer and nobody is on base. Somehow we have to make adjustments there to throw fastball in these situations."

Marmol said afterward that he would prefer to remain in his job, but knows the manager makes the final choice.

"You lose a game like that, I'm embarrassed right now," Marmol said.

The irony is that Marmol is avoiding the strike zone because he doesn't want to get hit hard and embarrass himself. It's happening anyway by putting on baserunners via walks, which forces him to pitch to the contact he has shied away from.

"I have to throw strikes, and I wasn't able to throw strikes today," Marmol said. "I can't find the strike zone. That's all. It was me. I don't make any excuses."

In five save chances this season, Marmol has converted only twice. He got the save Wednesday night with a perfect inning, but he went to a full count on the first batter, while the second batter flew out to the base of the left-field wall.

"I'm frustrated, of course," said Marmol, who blew 10 save chances last season. "When you don't throw strikes you have to be frustrated. He's the manager. He can do whatever he wants to do. I agree with that. Like I said, I will take the ball whenever he asks me to take the ball."