Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood Right Where They Belong on Cubs' Staff

Jerry BurnesAnalyst IJune 5, 2008

When Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella was asked about bullpen star Carlos Marmol moving to the rotation, he answered the right way—No.

When Piniella has been questioned about moving Marmol to the closer's spot, he responded with, "Kerry Wood is our closer."

Piniella couldn't be more right.

Wood is currently 17 of 21 in save opportunities this season. In his last 12 outings heading into Thursday night's game, he has a 0.73 earned run average.

In 32.1 innings this season, Wood has struck out 36 hitters, walking just six, while boasting a 2.78 ERA, and a 0.80 WHIP.

As for Marmol pitching out of the eighth inning spot, he has 56 strikeouts in 37.2 innings, with 13 walks, a 2.39 ERA, and a 0.80 WHIP. Marmol is also three of four in save opportunities.

However, Chicago fans must caution Piniella of falling too much in love with Wood as his closer.

"Kerry Wood is our closer," sounds awfully familiar to Lovie Smith and, "Rex Grossman is our quarterback."

For the time being though, Wood is leading the league in saves. He has shown he can handle the pressures of closing a ball game, and that he has the mentality of a ninth inning pitcher.

Marmol has been the most dominant reliever in the Major Leagues. He provides a good back-up option when Wood needs a rest or if his arm gives out again.

Moving him to closer now would be a mistake by Piniella. The Cubs are in first place, Wood is settling in, and Marmol hasn't been tested with a full season as a Major League reliever.

Last season Marmol appeared in only 69.1 innings, going 5-1 with a 1.43 ERA and 96 strikeouts. In 2006 he pitched 77 innings, going 5-7 with a 6.08 ERA. Since Bob Howry only gets better as the season progresses, he'll be around to spell both pitchers when needed.

Along with Marmol being unproven for a full season, Wood's contract is up after this season. Even if Wood pitches well all season long, the Cubs have the option to make Marmol the main man out of the pen and let Wood catch on elsewhere.

With Wood's arm being a liability, don't be surprised if he ends up on the disabled list, or rendered ineffective by the end of the season. In the past three seasons, Wood recorded only 24.1 innings in 2007, 19.2 in 2006, and 66 in 2005. He's on pace to pitch well over 66 innings in 2008.

The makeup of the Cubs' bullpen is one of the best in the league. Marmol and Wood are arguably the best 1-2 punch out of the bullpen since Ramiro Mendoza and Mariano Rivera with the Yankees in the late '90s.

So don't expect Marmol, or even Wood, to find themselves on the road to the rotation like Ryan Dempster and Yankees star Joba Chamberlain. Don't expect Marmol to challenge Wood as the closer anytime soon either. Not until Wood turns into Eric Gagne at least.

As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." And the Marmol-Wood tandem out the Cubs bullpen is far from broke.