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Carlos Marmol out of closer role as Dale Sveum turns to committee

Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood (sunglasses) puts his arm around pitcher Carlos Marmol during batting practice Wrigley Field Friday May 4

Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood (sunglasses) puts his arm around pitcher Carlos Marmol during batting practice at Wrigley Field Friday, May 4, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 6, 2012 8:09AM



The Cubs will use a “closer by committee” formula to replace the struggling Carlos Marmol, who was told Friday he had lost the closer job.

Left-hander James Russell, the only lefty in the bullpen, and right-hander Rafael Dolis are likely to close, with situations and matchups dictating whom manager Dale Sveum summons.

On Friday, it was Dolis, who finished a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers for Paul Maholm (3-2).

“We’re just going to play it by ear and whatever matchups come up in the ninth, that will be who I use,” he said.

The situation can’t help but shine a spotlight on the offseason decision to trade versatile lefty Sean Marshall, who is closing for the Cincinnati Reds after they lost closer Ryan Madson to injury.

Russell has been the most successful reliever this season. He hadn’t allowed a run in 72/3 innings before giving up one run in two-thirds of an inning Friday. The son of former major-league pitcher Jeff Russell might have the stuff and the mentality to close.

“I like to think closing will be a little screwy, and he passed that down to me,” Russell joked about his father. “If you’re a baseball player, you’re a little messed up.”

Sveum all but admitted the long-term answer still might be Marmol, unless the team makes a personnel change or has dramatic success with Marmol’s replacements.

“I told Carlos to be ready to pitch anytime,” Sveum said. “We have to get him productive to get to that role again.”

Marmol’s struggles have surfaced from time to time in the last four years, though he dramatically reversed himself in 2008, when he was named as a last-choice replacement to the National League All-Star team for Kerry Wood. He had a 1.29 ERA after the break compared to 3.61 before. Marmol was the setup man then and in 2009 before moving into the closer role in 2010. His 38 saves, 2.55 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 772/3 innings earned him a three-year, $20 million contract.

He lost his way and seemingly his once-devastating slider last season, going 2-6 with a 4.01 ERA and major-league worst 10 blown saves. In spring training, new pitching coach Chris Bosio worked with him to develop a sinking fastball. But if the added pitch was helpful, Marmol hasn’t followed the mandate to use it, despite giving up only two hits on fastballs.

“I completely understand where Carlos is coming from because he’s had a lot of success throwing that slider,” Sveum said of Marmol’s stubborn reliance on a now unreliable pitch. “But we had to make him understand, as a big-league pitcher, you have to throw the ball down the middle sometimes with a three-run lead and see what happens. Carlos still falls back on those situations where he was so successful.

“He’s given up two hits this year on his fastball, so he’s got to understand that’s a big pitch, especially since his velocity is back [to] 93 and 95 consistently. That should be a power point for him to use that sinker.

“Who knows if it’s mechanics or mental. His side sessions are good, but the game speeds up a little, the adrenaline gets pumping and things break down a little bit. That’s why as much as anything we have to make him a productive pitcher, whatever role it is for us to get an inning here, two innings there.”

Though he’ll be managing a new closer situation, Sveum said he won’t lose sight of “fixing” Marmol.

“He knows he has to get better and find it, but I left that window open for him if he starts pitching well and getting command back,” Sveum said. “There’s no reason I wouldn’t put him back [closing] again.”



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