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turner fieldToday’s game takes place against the backdrop of last night’s bullpen implosion, and it was the final straw for Carlos Marmol as the team’s closer. Dale Sveum just informed the media – shortly after informing Marmol – that he was making a change, and Kyuji Fujikawa (who himself gave up three runs last night) is now the closer. The move is expected to be a long-term one. In other words, this isn’t about giving Marmol a breather. He’s now going to pitch elsewhere in the pen, and it remains to be seen how he’ll be used. Sveum indicated Marmol would be in situations with less pressure for now. Obviously, if Fujikawa falls apart and there’s no better option later in the year, Marmol could return to the closer’s role, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the plan.

The Cubs will try to salvage the final game of a series they could have won, and they’ve got their new ace on the mound to do it. Jeff Samardzija was brilliant in the season opener against the Pirates, and we’ll see if he can do it again against a considerably more potent lineup (but one that will be without Freddie Freeman, who just hit the DL with an oblique strain that was visible last night).

Alberto Gonzalez may have quietly replaced Brent Lillibridge as the temporary starter at second base, as he’s in there for the second day in a row. To my mind, if Lillibridge isn’t going to start in situations like this, there’s little reason to keep him on the roster. Gonzalez is not really an upgrade, a few at bats notwithstanding.

If I’m still feeling salty and hungover about last night, I can only imagine how the Cubs feel. Their mettle will be tested today.

Game Info

Chicago Cubs (2-3) at Atlanta Braves (4-1), 12:35 CT on CSN.

Game Thread and Series Preview

The Game Thread lives here. You should participate in the madness. And, of course, for those who aren’t into message board-style game threads, please feel free to use the comments on this post for your in-game commentary/outbursts.

The Series Preview for this series lives here.

Starting Pitchers

Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.375 WHIP)

versus

Tim Hudson (0-0, 6.23 ERA, 2.077 WHIP)

Atlanta Braves Lineup

1. B.J. Upton, CF

2. Jason Heyward, RF

3. Justin Upton, LF

4. Evan Gattis, C

5. Dan Uggla, 2B

6. Juan Francisco, 3B

7. Chris Johnson, 1B

8. Ramiro Pena, SS

9. Tim Hudson, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. David DeJesus, CF

2. Starlin Castro, SS

3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

4. Alfonso Soriano, LF

5. Nate Schierholtz, RF

6. Dioner Navarro, C

7. Luis Valbuena, 3B

8. Alberto Gonzalez, 2B

9. Jeff Samardzija, P

  • nkniacc13

    I know Kuj was projected to take over as closer after ant trade of Marmol and was likely put the next year. Who does the Cubs expect to take over that role after next year? I know Vizcano could but cubs want him as a starter. McNutt? Dolis?

    • http://401klogic.net Westbound Willie

      Since the cubs don’t know who is the closer from day to day why in the world would you ask who the closer will be in a couple years? The answer actually is its nobody even with the cubs or in their system .

    • Kenster

      Tony Zych Or Arodys Vizcaino

  • Austin

    Come on Brett, no mention of the other huge game last night?

    I think it’s time to just walk Justin Upton every time he gets up. He is probably one of the hottest hitters right now.

  • Clay

    Any word of Barneys return timetable?

    • Rcleven

      Stitches come out this week. Has been taking swings during batting practice.
      I say by as soon as he comes off the DL.

  • Die hard

    Luke’s piece on Coleman is intriguing… If he’s throwing strikes being him up as he always had the mental toughness which is in his DNA and make him closer

    • waittilthisyear

      no

    • Dustin S

      Coleman doesn’t really seem have the stuff to fool people consistently, unless he’s come up with a new pitch that I haven’t seen yet. That said he couldn’t be worse than Marmol was. But without doing deep digging, you would think there would be a hard throwing decent control 1 inning type guy somewhere in the system. I think Fujikawa might not be not great as as a closer, but should be decent. But if Fujikawa flops, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rondon or Bowden get a shot at it. Especially Rondon, since he doesn’t give up many walks and can sometimes make guys look bad. So rather than Coleman closing, I’d prefer to see Rondon get a chance at closer with maybe Coleman, or better yet Villanueva/Feldman when Garza/Baker come back, backfilling his middle relief spot.

  • Good Captain

    It’s been my understanding that the two supposed advantages Lilliput had over Gonzalez was his greater versatility in the IF and OF AND his bat. It’s early but so far the second reason is questionable and his versatility is muted by his actual performance at the given performance. As pathetic as Gonzalez’s batting average maybe, I think his starting at 2B hurts the Team less.

  • Good Captain

    Spellcheck Lillibridge = Lilliput — Ooops!

  • Stu

    When the Cubs SELL their short term assets by July, Watkins may get a call up if he keeps getting on base.

    They played the same game last year trotting out Jeff Baker and Joe Mather in the first half. At least they got a decent prospect for Baker. It was brutal to watch.

    • http://401klogic.net Westbound Willie

      What story term assets?

  • Stu

    Shelling out good money to watch Lillibridge, Gonzalez, Valbuena=definition of insanity.

  • Diamond Don

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Marmol is out as the Cub’s closer!!! Now let’s make the next move of cutting him so he can’t let teams back in the game in the sixth, seventh or eighth innings.

  • Mike

    I agree! Time to cut marmol loose!!! I can’t take it anymore!!! How long does he have to suck before the front office realizes he sucks??? All of us fans have seen it for years!!!

  • jim

    Carlos will be traded no doubt by july deadline: expect American league team to pick him up for cash/2 prospects …that’s about all they’ll get – if that!
    as for closer it’s up to new guy to loose it appears to be logical think he was closer in Japan.
    can’t be any worse. In his day Carlos Marmol was amazing strike outs piled up until enough video tapes picked up the tips and his wildness sure didn’t help – he’s over throwing the ball.
    otherwise good luck to Carlos fun while it lasted…

  • Matty Ice

    Cutting Marmol and bringing up someone more effective would go against Theo’s plan of tanking this season. It just won’t happen.

  • another JP

    There comes a point where the overall damage to the team takes precedent over building trade value for a $9.8M train wreck and we reached that last night. Tell me, did anyone else have their finger on the ‘last channel’ button of the remote when Marmol was pitching in the ninth? I’d already switched channels before Justin Uptons homer hit the bleachers.

    • Jamie

      I couldn’t. My remote was stuck in the TV screen following BJ’s homer to tie. Had Fujikawa kept them 3 ahead going into the 9th, I anticipated a circus ride for the 9th with Marmol. When the lead was cut to 1, I KNEW it was over. But like any bad accident, I just HAD to look. That abysmal performance did wonders for this guy’s blood pressure.

      I’m with so many others here. Time for the Cubs to cut their losses w/ Marmol and aggressively get all they can for him. By now, that probably equates to a dozen eggs and player to be named later…old cassette player, that is.

  • Coldneck

    Really, is there a decent argument for Lillibridge making the team? I hot spring does not make a ball player. His career OBP is in the .270 range. That’s horrific for a guy without an ounce of slugging. Well, it’s horrific for anyone, but especially for someone who won’t hit many extra base hits.

  • desertrat

    I remember we went through the same thing with Marmol at the beginning of the 2012 season. He was blowing saves and losing games and people wanted his head on a platter. He lost his job as the closer. But then he came back, and during the last half of the season he was quite good. I have a feeling that Marmol still has some good baseball left in him, and I think the coaches need to roll up their sleeves and earn their money. They need to watch the films of last night over and over, in slo-mo if need be, to see if Marmol was tipping his pitches, and also to see if anything was different in his mechanics between late last year and last night. I truly hope that the Cubs coaches are not simply shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Hey, that’s baseball.”

  • JulioZuleta

    I’m looking for some longer ABs today, who knows. maybe even a walk or two. The Cubs have only walked 8 times, second least in the MLB (HOU, 5). Four Individual players around the league already have 6 walks.

    • JulioZuleta

      Wow, I’m looking at the stats more. I really think the Stros could lose close to 120. They have the least walks (5) and the most K’s (60). Ten more K’s than the next closest team, the Twins.

      Looking at team stats this early is fun. The Pirates have a TEAM OPS OF .330!!! In 5 games they only have 4 XBH’s, all doubles. Wow.

  • JulioZuleta

    Anyone else think the TV gun has been juiced this series? Bowden, Rondon, Fuji, and Samardzija have all hit higher numbers this series. I suppose that could have a lot to do with the warmer temps, but Rondon went from 88-89 to touching 94. Fuji was comfortably in the 94 range, and I think JD said he touched 97 (may have heard that wrong, though).

  • biggz

    Spellcheck looking damn sexy today. Good job on stranding Upton on third.

  • Jeff

    It’s sickening to sit here and watch our hitters flail away chasing balls in the dirt. We are such undisciplined hitters. Soriano looks horrid at the plate.

    • King Jeff

      I don’t think it’s all of the hitters, but I have noticed a trend of a few guys taking some awful swings at some awful pitches. Especially the bottom of the lineup.

  • I love marmol

    I wish people wouldn’t be so mean to marmol. He is really good. I hope he gets another chance.

    • waittilthisyear

      marmol looks like the yellow bastard from “sin city.” also, he has not looked good this year, st included, to put it mildly

    • DarthHater

      Thanks for your input, Mama Marmol. ;-)

  • JulioZuleta

    It is fair to criticize Dale Sveum for some things, but the man is a master of the infield shift.

    • Jeff

      It’s fair to criticize Dale Sveum for alot of things…like failing to calm down his pitcher whose losing it on the mound or waiting one batter too long to make a pitching change…just saying.

      I don’t blame Marmol, I expected him to Suck!

      • JulioZuleta

        Leaving a pitcher in too long is NOT one of the things to criticize him for. Lot of hindsight criticism around here. With Fuji last night, he was trying to show confidence in him, with Shark today, he’s trying to let him establish himself as an Ace. Some people need to realize that this year is still about development, not yet winning a world series. When you’re developing people in new roles, youre going to take some lumps along the way. That’s a very weak criticism.

        • waittilthisyear

          good points jz

        • Jeff

          I guess he’s teaching by letting the player learn from his failures…not something I’m a big fan off.

          A quick trip to the mound by him or Bosio to say, hey, calm down, execute your pitches and stop worrying about that shitty umpire is all that was needed.

          I’ve watched Sandberg manage, look at his record in the minors and what he has done with young players, he’s heads above Dale Sveum will ever hope to be.

          • JulioZuleta

            And yet Sandberg has not been offered a job despite 3-4 years as a candidate. Obviously front offices don’t regard him as highly as Cubs fans do. I think the way he handled the Cubs hiring of Quade showed a lot about his policy for dealing with adversity…run away and cry. I argued with people about him for 2 years, I won’t do it anymore. I think the dearth of offeres he’s received speaks volumes.

            • Willie Smith

              So when he becomes the Phil’s mgr next year or in 2015 you”ll argue what? And he did not run away.

              • JulioZuleta

                I’ll say why did it take 6 years of interviews to get a job

        • Jeff

          Hey, look how the opposing manager knows when to pull his starter…amazing!

  • Mike

    Time to bring in Marmol for mop-up duty when we’re down 7-1 in the 8th.

  • Bilbo161

    Barney would have had both those balls and Jeff would still be pitching with the lead.

    • Jeff

      no kidding

  • Idaho Razorback

    Mop up duty at 7-1? It’s mop up duty now at 4-1.

  • FarmerTanColin

    Hey so I got the game on the radio and was wondering about Rondon’s velocity. Gamecast had him topping out at 92 and his changeups around 88. That is more likely a cutter or something else right? Any word from the viewers watching about his repertoire?

    • Mike

      Looks like fastball, slider, changeup.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I missed his appearance, but yeah, I can’t imagine he’s actually got a 4 mph split on his fastball and changeup.

  • Mike

    Takahashi, a LOOGY against a righty. Makes sense, Sveum.

  • SVAZCUB

    Demoting Marmol to mop up duty means they can use Takahashi as a LOOGY instead of mop-up, which means they can stop using Russell as a LOOGY (ridiculous!) and use him as a set up guy.

    Between Fuji, Bowden and Rondon, the cream will rise to the top and one of the three will be adequate as a 9th inning guy (although far from a top line closer). IMHO, Fuji looked shaky in all three outings. He looked nervous out there and got away with some very unimpressive pitches in his first outing. His second outing was better, but the gun in Pittsburgh had his FB in the 89-90 range–although the gun might have been a bit on the slow side.

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