Marmol solving closer conundrum

Carlos Marmol (STAFF PHOTO/PAM DAVIS)

With all the things that are uncertain for the Cubs heading into the off-season, one picture is becoming clearer: Carlos Marmol has solidified his position as the closer of the future.

Marmol, who turns 27 on Oct. 14, took over as the closer from Kevin Gregg on Aug. 18, and he has gone out and saved 11-for-11, with 15 saves overall.

"He's done a real good job," said manager Lou Piniella. "What he has done is basically solidified his job for next year, and going into camp, it's his job. He's done nothing to make me believe he's not the guy."

Marmol lost out to Gregg in spring training, and he seemed stung by it after getting back from the World Baseball Classic. But since taking over, his confidence seems to have grown.

He's a bit of a paradox, though. Control has been a problem all year, even since spring training. In 71 innings pitched, he's walked 63 and hit 12. When he's on, however, Marmol is hard to hit, as evidenced by the 42 hits allowed.

Marmol's WHIP (walks plus hits per one inning pitched) this year is 1.48, compared with a tidy 0.93 last year.

NOTES, QUOTES

--1B Derrek Lee did not play Friday. He injured his troublesome neck Thursday while stealing second base in the ninth inning. He also rode home on Jeff Baker's homer, which proved to be the game-winner. When Lee got back to the dugout, he got a friendly slap on the head from teammate Angel Guzman, and that probably didn't help the neck.

"The slide had something to do with it and the love tap to his head," said Piniella.

--3B Aramis Ramirez was a late lineup scratch because of a sore left shoulder. It's the same shoulder Ramirez dislocated in May, and it won't be fully healed until the off-season, when Ramirez has a chance to rest it. Ramirez has 63 RBI in only 78 games.

ROSTER REPORT

--Gregg has been iffy with a strained muscle in his left side. Gregg has worked in a setup role since Marmol took the closer's job from him on Aug. 18. Gregg's injury has given young pitchers such as RHPs Esmailin Caridad and Justin Berg a chance to pitch out of the pen.

"I'm quite comfortable with a lot of these young kids," Piniella said. "They've gotten to pitch a lot."

--RHP Carlos Zambrano turned in the Cubs' 94th quality start of the season by working nine shutout innings Friday in a 3-0 victory over San Francisco. The Cubs are 59-33 in those games, with the starters having an ERA of 2.01. It was Zambrano's first complete game since his no-hitter, last Sept. 14 against Houston in a neutral-site game at Milwaukee. Zambrano notched his first victory since Sept. 9.

--Baker was 0-for-2, but he did have two walks and is 9-for-26 (.346) on the road trip. Baker, whom the Cubs got in a July trade with Colorado, can play second, third and first base. He also may see time in the outfield during spring training, according to Piniella. If Baker isn't the starter at second base next year, the Cubs can envision him playing a similar role to that of Mark DeRosa in 2007 and 2008.

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