CHICAGO -- Carlos Marmol began work on getting his trademark slider back Saturday with a short session with Cubs pitching coach Mark Riggins, who expects the closer to return soon.
Marmol is being given a few days off to get back on track after a difficult week, including Thursday's game when he walked four and gave up a hit in a four-run ninth. He's now 19-for-26 in save situations.
"The only timetable I can say is he ain't pitching today," Cubs manager Mike Quade said.
Riggins said Marmol will throw on the side Sunday. The main mechanical tweak involves Marmol's grip on the ball. His hand has been more on the side lately than on top, and that needs to change.
"It's nothing major, just an adjustment," Riggins said.
Marmol has not struck out a batter since July 3, and that's unusual. Last season, he posted the highest single-season mark for a reliever, averaging 15.99 strikeouts per nine innings.
"His breaking ball is his strikeout pitch, and the breaking ball doesn't have the depth it had earlier in the year," Riggins said. "He's positive. He's going to be the same old Carlos here real soon."
Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood will take over the closer duties for now. Wood can relate to Marmol's struggles.
"He's an adrenaline guy who feeds off adrenaline when he comes in a game," Wood said. "It can be a good and a bad thing. A tendency for a guy with adrenaline when things speed up a little bit, it goes a little bit faster. Guys like Mariano [Rivera], when things speed up, he goes slower. But [Rivera] is not an adrenaline guy, he's a control pitcher. You know [Marmol] will bounce out of it and figure it out."
What's important is that Marmol has not lost confidence in his ability, Riggins said.
"He's very strong-minded," Riggins said. "If you're a closer, you're strong-minded. He wants to get back out there as soon as possible, and we want that, too."
Wood said it might help if Marmol returns and has a little more breathing room instead of one-run or tie ballgames.
"Those are tough for closers," Wood said. "Usually you get a handful of three-run opportunities a month, and not that it's easier, but you tend to work a little less. We've put him out there in tough spots.
"We're used to him getting out of anything. There's a little blip here and it's like, 'Oh, no, what has he done?' Everybody's allowed a rough stretch."
Does Wood want the closer's job back?
"No," he said quickly.
Carpenter optioned to make room for Big Z
CHICAGO -- Carlos Zambrano was activated from the 15-day disabled list in time to start Saturday for the Cubs and pitcher Chris Carpenter was optioned to Triple-A Iowa, to make room and also get some more work.
Carpenter gave up three earned runs over 9 2/3 innings in 10 relief outings.
"He did a great job here and did nothing to disappoint us," Cubs manager Mike Quade said of Carpenter. "Given the makeup of the bullpen, he needs to go where he can pitch and work on the command of his slider."
Ramon Ortiz, who has made two starts, now goes to the bullpen and will be used in long relief.
Zambrano had been on the DL since July 1 with lower back soreness. He had to come out of his last start June 30 after one inning. He made a rehab start with Class A Peoria on July 8 and gave up one unearned run on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts over four innings.
Cubs outfielders pride themselves on defense
CHICAGO -- Cubs outfielders made two defensive plays Friday that won't show up in the boxscore, but definitely helped them beat the Marlins.
In the Marlins' eighth with a runner at first, pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs singled into the gap in left center and Reed Johnson fired to second to hold Dobbs to a single. Neither Dobbs nor the other runner scored. In the ninth, Marlon Byrd threw out Hanley Ramirez as he tried to stretch a single into a double. The Cubs won, 2-1.
Byrd and Johnson take pride in their defensive play, even if it is unnoticed.
"A lot of the game over the years is geared toward offense," Johnson said. "Obviously, driving in runs and hitting home runs have taken over as important. But people in the clubhouse noticed [those plays], and diehard baseball fans will notice that. The average fan who turns on the TV and watches a game once a week wants to see RBIs and home runs."
The two outfielders were playing "no doubles," so they were a little deeper on defense.
"We didn't want the tying run to get to second base," Johnson said. "Marlon might not be able to cut that ball off if he's playing normal depth."
Someday, Johnson said, a defensive-minded player will get more recognition.
"I guess when your agent fights for you in the offseason, he's not arguing with the general manager about how many double plays you kept in order," Johnson said. "It's all about how many home runs, and what you've done offensively. In the outfield, defense doesn't play a part even in offeseason free-agent salaries. I think it should.
"If you can create runs offensively, that's great, but if you can cut other teams down from scoring runs, that will help, and that's what teams should be concerned about."
For the second straight game Saturday, Cubs manager Mike Quade didn't change his lineup. That's unusual.
"I've got to be honest, I looked at the four [Marlins starting] right-handers coming into this series, and I thought, 'How nice is this going to be?'" Quade said. "I can just show up and write it down and post it and not have to think for two hours about where I'm going with this."
In his second game with Triple-A Iowa, Brett Jackson went 2-for-5 with a double and a triple, and he stole a base. Jackson, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 2009, was promoted from Double-A Tennessee after the All-Star break. Ryan Flaherty, also promoted from Tennessee, hit his first homer for the Iowa Cubs on Friday.
Ryan Dempster's foundation will host its second Casino Night on Thursday at the Palmer House in Chicago. There are still openings for the event, which will feature a silent auction of unique items and trips. Go to dempsterfoundation.org for more info.
Carlos Zambrano delivered 175 pairs of shoes and 200 shirts to an orphanage in Guatemala during the All-Star break. "Everytime I go there, I realize how fortunate we are," said Frank Alvarez, director of Zambrano's foundation.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.