And your closer is… Kevin Gregg!!!
Cubs Manager Lou Pinella finally named his closer over the weekend, announcing that Kevin Gregg would serve as the Cubs closer during the 2009 MLB schedule. Carlos Marmol, in the running with Gregg, will once again serve as the Cubs primary set-up man.
Pinella had this to say about the competition: “I couldn’t go wrong either way. I’ve thought about this a whole lot. It’s tough bringing in a young man [Marmol] who has played such a big role for us the last couple years, but he’s young and he’ll get plenty of opportunities to close in his career. Right now, we felt the other way would be more beneficial to the team. We’re fortunate to have this guy [Gregg]. He’s all business, he goes about it the right way, he works hard and he’s got that mentality.”
All in all, it’s probably the right move. Carlos Marmol is the most reliable pitcher to come into a dicey situation and be able to get out of the jam without giving up any runs. Marmol can also go more than an inning of work – coming in in a tough situation in the 7th inning to record an out or 2, pitching the 8th inning and then turning it over to Gregg to record the final 3 outs for a Cubs win. No one else on the Cubs staff is capable of doing that, so it is wise to take advantage of Marmol’s assets in that regard. It’s unfortunate that Marmol won’t be able to rack up the “personal save numbers”, but in some respects, getting to that 9th inning with the lead is just as important.
All this also depends on Gregg’s health. Gregg battled a knee injury during the 2008 MLB season and struggled for most of the season. Gregg did pitch in 72 games, recording 29 saves, but he did blow a major-league leading 9 saves. In 2007, Gregg saved 32 games in 74 appearances with a 3.54 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. Gregg had 87 strikeouts in 2007, but only 58 strikeouts in 2008. His knee is supposedly fully healthy now, and his stellar spring seems to prove that – 8 1/3 innings pitched in 9 games without giving up a single run. Gregg had this to say: “It’s where I’m comfortable, it’s what I’ve done the last couple years. I’m excited about a new year and especially being on a healthy leg. That’s a big thing for me this year is wanting to be healthy… That vital role he [Marmol] had last year, we’ll need him to do the same thing this year. He’s a big part of the success of the bullpen. Any time you have a good closer, you have to have a good setup guy.”
As for Marmol, he was clearly diappointed with the decision. After hinting that he didn’t really think there was a fair competition between he and Gregg during spring training, he said the right thing – “I think it’s good for the team.” Marmol has been one of the most dependable relief pitchers for the Cubs the last 2 seasons. In 2007, Marmol pitched 69+ innings in 59 appearances – 5-1 record, 1 save, 16 holds, 96 strikeouts, 1.43 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. In 2008, Marmol pitched 87+ innings in 82 appearances – 2-4 record, 7 saves, 30 holds, 114 strikeouts, 2.68 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. They will need similar numbers, although maybe not so many appearances from Marmol again in 2009.
I like tag team combo for the Cubs at the back end of games. If the Cubs can build an early lead often enough, the Cubs should be able to rack up wins with the quality bullpen finishing up with Marmol and Gregg. Let’s root for pitching health again in 2009 for the north-siders.