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Carlos Marmol still Cubs' closer, but set to have short leash

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

Cubs
Fujikawa celebrates Monday's Cubs' victory after getting the save. (USATSI)

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After starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija dazzled for the Cubs for eight innings, closer Carlos Marmol made things interesting in the ninth inning Monday.

He started the inning off with a full-count strikeout of Garrett Jones -- though it's worth noting the pitch wasn't even close to being a strike and Jones shouldn't have swung. Then Marmol hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch, allowed a Pedro Alvarez RBI single (McCutchen had stolen second) and walked Gaby Sanchez.

So after entering the ninth with a 3-0 deficit, the Pirates now had the winning run stepping to the plate with only one out.

And Cubs manager Dale Sveum pulled Marmol. Lefty James Russell got a fly out and Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa recorded a save by inducing a fly out to center.

When asked about Marmol after the game, Sveum would say (via AP recap): "Not making any changes or anything like that. He just didn't have it today."

Of course, when pressed on if Marmol would be pulled quickly again, Sveum said "yeah, if I have the weapons to get out of it." (Suntimes.com)

So it sounds rather obvious that Marmol isn't going to be allowed to mess around much with leads this season.

Marmol is pretty well despised by most Cubs fans due to his maddening inconsistency, but he was dominant for a lot of 2012, closing 18 of 19 save chances with a 2.06 ERA and 55 strikeouts in his last 39 1/3 innings. Of course, he also walked 25 guys during that same span. And control was again the issue Monday.

Though stats from NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball, which is Japan's pro league) don't always translate to the majors, Fujikawa could prove to be everything Marmol isn't. In 369 2/3 career innings in NPB, Fujikawa only walked 94 batters -- a rate of 2.3 per nine innings. Marmol has walked 346 hitters in 515 major-league innings, a rate of 6.0 per nine innings.

Monday, Fujikawa only threw two pitches -- both strikes. Marmol threw 19 pitches, only nine of which were strikes.

One reason Marmol will likely keep the job of closer -- albeit with a short leash -- is that he's a free agent after the season. Should he prove a quality reliever, the Cubs could get something of value back in a trade.

Until then, expect the screams in Wrigleyville to continue in the ninth inning every time the Cubs lead a close game.

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