After Carlos Marmol’s shaky showing got him pulled from a save chance on Opening Day, the Cubs reiterated that he was still their closer.
Marmol, though, wasted no time in putting that to the test. Handed another 3-0 lead on Wednesday — thanks to a Nate Schierholtz homer providing two insurance runs in the top of the ninth — Marmol gave up a single, a walk and back-to-back RBI singles before finishing off the Pirates.
Manager Dale Sveum used both James Russell and Kyuji Fujikawa in relief of Marmol to close out a 3-1 game Monday, but the two fallbacks had already worked today, giving Marmol more rope than he likely otherwise would have received. Sveum did get Hisanori Takahashi up after the first run scored, but he stuck with Marmol after a visit to the mound from Chris Bosio.
Marmol escaped the jam by striking out Pedro Alvarez and inducing a double-play ball from Neil Walker. Both at-bats were pretty awful. Alvarez fanned on three pitches, the last being a slider in the dirt. Walker reached for a fastball that was outside and a bit high and, instead of going with it, tried to pull it. The result was an easy 4-6-3.
The problem for Marmol right now is that his slider isn’t diving like it once did. As a two-pitch pitcher with no command, he’s always relied on getting swings and misses on his slider. And right now, the pitch often isn’t tempting enough to chase. The Cubs can’t keep turning late leads over to him while he looks like this. Walker’s grounder may have bought Marmol a little more time to figure things out, but it’s obvious that Fujikawa is the guy the Cubs should be turning to in the ninth.
With the Braves on the cusp of formalizing their one-year deal with Kurt Suzuki, the market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters is dwindling. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick references an inside source that lists the Angels, Rockies and Reds as potential suitors for the 30-year-old’s services.
Wieters is coming off of an eight-year career with the Orioles. In 2016, he played through his first full year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and a .711 OPS in 464 PA. A return to Baltimore in 2017 isn’t out of the question, Crasnick writes, citing some within the team that would be open to Wieters stepping into a DH role and catching platoon with Wellington Castillo. However, he also points out that the front office appears divided on the veteran catcher, and sees the Orioles as a long shot for the foreseeable future.
The Angels have already been tied to Wieters this offseason, while the Rockies and Reds don’t appear to have made any formal inquiries so far. Both could use a veteran presence behind the dish, as the Rockies are planning to platoon rookie catcher Tom Murphy with 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the spring. The Reds, meanwhile, are banking on a quick recovery for 28-year-old Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of the 2016 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery and forced the club to rely almost exclusively on back-up backstop Tucker Barnhart.
The Red Sox are expecting to go to an arbitration hearing with left-handed reliever Fernando Abad, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski said there was a “decent chance” a hearing would be necessary after countering Abad’s $2.7 million request with $2 million.
Abad, 31, pitched just 12 2/3 innings for Boston after the club acquired him from Minnesota at the trade deadline last season. The lefty earned a cumulative 3.66 ERA, 4.2 BB/9 and 7.9 SO/9 for the two teams in 2016. He received $1.25 million in 2016 and will remain under club control (through arbitration) in 2017. A $2.7 million salary would be a hefty increase for the veteran reliever, who has seen a significant decline since he put up a 1.57 ERA for the Athletics in 2014 and who has not amassed more than 0.6 fWAR in any single season to date.
While the Red Sox aren’t close to settling with Abad, Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports that they may be closing in on a settlement with left-handed starter Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz filed at $5.7 million, while the Sox felt more comfortable at $3.6 million. The two are expected to meet somewhere in the middle to avoid an arbitration hearing later this winter.