Carlos Marmol (STAFF PHOTO)
What closer controversy? Manager Lou Piniella says there is none, even though he used Carlos Marmol over Kevin Gregg with a one-run lead Saturday at Milwaukee.
What made the move interesting was that Gregg suffered a blown save and the loss the previous day, when he allowed a hit and two walks. Gregg, who did not allow a run during spring training, beat out a clearly disappointed Marmol for the closer's job, with Marmol returning to his familiar role as eighth-inning setup man.
Piniella had Marmol up in the bullpen Saturday and said he did not want both of his late-inning men warming up.
"Gregg is still our closer," Piniella was quick to say. "I can't afford to get them both up because I lose them."
The problem, according to Piniella, is that if Gregg warms up and then sits without getting into the game, his left knee tightens up. Gregg underwent surgery on the knee in the off-season.
Even though Gregg won the closer's job, Piniella also repeatedly has said there will be opportunities for both late-inning men to get saves.
CUBS 8, BREWERS 5: Cubs batters took advantage of four bases-loaded walks in a four-run fourth. RF Reed Johnson, who entered the game when Milton Bradley strained his groin, made a leaping catch to rob Prince Fielder of a grand slam in the fifth. RHP Ryan Dempster gutted out six innings without his best stuff. LHP Sean Marshall and Marmol were solid in setup roles before Gregg survived a shaky ninth.
--CF Kosuke Fukudome probably won't be coming out of games for defensive purposes anymore. Piniella put Joey Gathright into center late in one game, but said he did that because Fukudome still was getting comfortable after making the switch from right field. It's also probably helping Fukudome's cause that he's off to a good start with the bat.
--SS Ryan Theriot has hit safely in all six games. He singled and had an RBI double Sunday. Theriot has 11 hits in 20 at-bats with no strikeouts and five walks.
INSIDE THE NUMB3RS: 250 -- With a stolen base Sunday, LF Alfonso Soriano became the 19th player in big league history to have at least 250 steals and 250 homers for his career. He joined former Cubs Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg on the 250-250 list.
HE SAID IT: "Just can't do it. You're going to lose. Get the ball over the plate, and make the other team beat you. Period." -- Piniella, on his relievers walking five batters in a 4-3 loss at Milwaukee on April 10.
Piniella admitted he is still learning about his bullpen, which was nearly completely reconstructed during the offseason. Only Marmol remains from the bullpen that opened the 2008 season. Of most concern to Piniella was the high number of walks the relievers were issuing. He said he and his coaching staff come from "the school" that says pitchers should make hitters beat them by hitting the ball, not by getting a free pass on base.
--C Geovany Soto threw a ball with the trainer from about 90 feet Sunday and reported that his sore right shoulder is feeling better. Soto has not started since last Tuesday, when he came out of the game at Houston early. He pinch-hit Sunday, and he might do so again Monday. The Cubs have an off day Tuesday, and it's likely he could start Wednesday against the Rockies at home.
--Bradley suffered what the Cubs called a right groin strain as he ran the bases in the fourth inning. With cold and wet weather expected Monday, Bradley probably won't play in the home opener.
--Backup C Koyie Hill played the weekend with a sore right baby toe. He suffered the injury Friday when hit by a pitch. The training staff cut a hole in Hill's shoe so that the toe wouldn't press against it. Hill said the toe was feeling better Sunday.
IOWA 6, ROUND ROCK 3 (CLASS AAA)
At Round Rock, Texas, OF Brad Snyder’s seventh inning grand slam powered Iowa (3-1) to the win and series victory Sunday. Snyder (2-for-4) and 1B Bobby Scales (2-for-3) led the Cubs in hitting. RHP Randy Wells started and allowed two runs and five hits in five innings in a no-decision.
“I had my sinker working for me (Sunday). I pitched well after not starting in awhile,” Wells said of his performance. “It’s a team game and if you put together quality outings with this team, you’re going to be successful.”
Iowa used four relievers in the victory. RHP Jesse Estrada (1-0) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory. RHP Kevin Hart worked a scoreless ninth inning for his first save.
JACKSONVILLE 8, TENNESSEE 1 (CLASS AA)
At Jacksonville, Fla., RHP Jay Jackson (0-1) allowed six runs and seven hits in four innings Sunday, striking out four batters and walking two in his Double-A debut. 2B Tony Thomas (3-for-4) and SS Matt Camp (3-for-3, RBI double, walk) paced the Smokies’ (2-2) offense atop the order.