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April 6, 2013

Closer carousel already spinning for some teams

We’re not even a week into the season and already there are some changes at the back end of bullpens.

In a turn of events that shocked no one, Carlos Marmol has struggled out of the gate for the Cubs. He nearly blew a save opportunity on Opening Day, giving up a run on a walk and a hit before being relieved so that the Cubs could preserve a win. Marmol was shaky again in his next save opportunity, giving up three runs on two hits and walk before getting out of trouble thanks to a double play that Pittsburgh’s Neil Walker hit into.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum is on the record as saying that he is sticking with Marmol, and I actually believe him ... sort of.

I believe he wants to try to keep Marmol as his man in the ninth, but not because he is the best man for the job. Rather, I believe the Cubs are trying to unload Marmol (there were reports throughout spring training that the Cubs would like to move the veteran) and are looking to keep his value high.

The man you really want, I believe, in the Cubs bullpen is Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa. The first-year Cub had 196 career saves in Japan with a career 1.80 ERA and 856 strikeouts. He wound up with the save on Opening Day and I believe that when the Cubs are finally ready to make a change, Fujikawa will become the man who gets the ball in the ninth. It’s just a matter of when, not if.

That’s the hard part, staying patient while the Cubs try to pump Marmol’s trade value.

Meanwhile, John Axford has been fairly awful thus far in Milwaukee. The veteran blew a save opportunity on Opening Day and in his next outing gave up three runs on five hits in less than an inning. Perhaps most troubling, Axford’s velocity has been down and both he and the team seem vexed as to why.

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