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Cubs might miss lefty Sean Marshall

Updated: April 10, 2012 11:49AM

MESA, Ariz. — Where have you gone, Sean Marshall?

If the Cubs actually are competitive this year, that question could come back to haunt them.

‘‘The bullpen is a great question mark right now,’’ said manager Dale Sveum, who is searching for a second late-inning setup man to complement Kerry Wood, ideally a left-hander.

Of course, that’s Marshall, one of the most dominant lefty relievers in baseball the last two seasons, who was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in December.

Sveum will take a right-hander for the role.

‘‘You basically have to have two setup guys if you really want to be [competitive],’’ Sveum said. ‘‘Besides starting pitching, bullpens are where it’s won. Like the Giants a couple years ago and the Cardinals last year. [Tony] La Russa went to that bullpen the last two months, and they were durable, they had good stuff and you didn’t have to worry about matchups. The Giants the year before, all seven guys were nasty, they could pitch multiple innings, their left-handers could get right-handers out.

For now, the only three pitchers locked into bullpen spots are closer Carlos Marmol, Russell and Wood. At least one starting candidate figures to wind up in the pen in a long role, possibly two if one is Jeff Samardzija.

Meanwhile, Sveum is sensitive to the workload of Wood, who pitched a scoreless inning in his first appearance Thursday. Marshall, for instance, had 78 appearances last season.

Sveum said Wood, who had blister and knee issues last year, won’t be asked to do anything close to that.

‘‘That’s every other day,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘That’s a lot. Every third day would be nice, two out of five. We’ve just got to make sure if you get him up, you get him in the game and tell him the days off even though he’s going to say, ‘Yeah, I’m OK.’ ’’

NOTES: Sveum said the key to Marmol bouncing back from his struggles last year is to rely more on his fastball and less on a slider that hitters have started sitting on. He said that helped Francisco Rodriguez last year after he left the New York Mets for the Milwaukee Brewers.

◆ The Cubs met with experts from Northeastern University’s Center for Sport in Society to discuss issues involving conduct away from the ballpark. It’s part of team president Theo Epstein’s approach on creating a “Cubs Way.”

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