Chicago Cubs: How Close Is the Closer Competition?

Joe WillettSenior Writer IFebruary 22, 2009

This article was originally published at, your place for all things Chicago Cubs.

Lou Piniella has stated already that there will be an open competition between former set-up man Carlos Marmol, who has been looked at as the likely successor for closer for the past few years, or newcomer Kevin Gregg.

Both are capable and both seem like they want to take the challenge on full force.

"Everybody wants to be the closer," Marmol said. "That's what I want to be."

Marmol has already shown his skills to the coaching staff when he was the fill-in closer last year while Kerry Wood was out last season.

Gregg, however, has a lot more experience as a closer, saving 61 games over the past two season, but his career ERA of 4.0 is a red flag for a reliever. But he has said that he is ready for the season and can't wait to get going.

"I know Carlos Marmol is a great pitcher himself, and I just look for Lou to pick who he's comfortable with and go from there," Gregg said of the competition. "I'm more looking forward to winning and getting back in the playoffs and going deep in the playoffs, that's the most important thing. As far as what my expectations are, it's to come in, show what I'm capable of and see what Lou wants to do."

Gregg also showed love to the fans when talking about why he thinks that he will be better with the Cubs than he was in Florida with the Marlins.

"Going to Florida was kind of a culture shock for me," Gregg said. "It'll be nice to go back to 40,000 fans and fans who are intense about the game and expect to win."

Although Piniella has said that the closer position is going to be openly competed for, he has also shown a preference to go with Marmol as the closer.

"Let them compete," Piniella said. "I feel comfortable with Marmol, there's no question. But we traded for this other young man [Gregg] and he was a closer over there with success. Give him a chance, too."

As for pitching coach Larry Rothschild, he has stayed completely neutral about who he thinks will be the closer this season, and says that he has seen both of them enough for Marmol's time with the team to not be a factor.

"You know what they both can do," Rothschild said. "You look at their track records. Kevin has pitched against us enough that we've seen him."

Whoever wins the closer competition can expect a lot of work, but as of now, I have to give the upper hand to Marmol, who has a lot more youth, already knows the staff, and seems primed for a chance at stardom.

I'm Joe W.