05/05/2013 11:04 PM ET
Sveum's patience tested when Cubs give up leads
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The first 30 games of the season have tested Cubs manager Dale Sveum's patience.
The Cubs have lost nine games in which they have led at some point -- second-most in the National League -- including Saturday's 6-4 loss to the Reds.
"Those are tough losses, and we've had quite a few of them this year," Sveum said. "It's no fun for anybody, and the players battle, battle, battle and get those leads, and then all of a sudden, they're gone. I don't care who you are, it ain't no fun."
Twelve of the Cubs' 19 losses have been by two runs or less. Twenty-five of their 30 games have been decided by three runs or less.
"Going into the season, we all said we had a much more competitive team," Sveum said, citing the addition of left-handed bats Nate Schierholtz and Dioner Navarro. "For the most part, that's all worked to a 'T,' but the back end of the bullpen has cost us, and not just cost us, but we've had some miscues on the field that have cost our starters some really good outings as well."
On Thursday, Travis Wood was cruising over seven shutout innings, and two defensive miscues in the eighth led to four runs and helped the Padres post a come-from-behind win. On Saturday, Carlos Marmol's meltdown cost the Cubs, who had a 4-1 lead going into the eighth. The starting pitching has posted 18 quality starts, yet the Cubs have won six of those games.
"It's just a shame knowing that if we played really clean baseball and had a dominating bullpen, this could be flipped and 19-11, and instead, we're on the back end of this and it's frustrating," Sveum said. "I think the good thing about it is knowing we've been in every single game we've played, and had games right in the palm of our hands and given them away. The team and everybody, we're putting ourselves in situations to win games and have leads. We just have to clean that up and somehow get those last three-to-six outs."
It's tested the second-year manager's patience.
"I won't lie, your patience can only take so much sometimes," Sveum said. "Obviously, you put players out there to do a job, and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't work out, but the bottom line is production and getting the job done."
Barney trying to be patient at the plate
CHICAGO -- This has not been a good homestand for the Cubs' Darwin Barney. The second baseman is 3-for-21 in seven games, and 0-for-15 in his last five.
"We're not taking advantage of fastballs," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Barney's at-bats. "They're getting deep on him and getting underneath him. We have to keep working to get out of it. We need him to do something, get on base, and do something in that part of the order."
On Friday against the Reds, he popped up to end the sixth and strand runners at first and third in a 6-5 loss. On Sunday, he flew out to right to end the fourth and leave the bases loaded, and the Cubs lost, 7-4. This season, he's 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
"It's not fun coming up in big situations and not coming through," Barney said. "When you have runners in scoring position, things just aren't falling. I put some good swings on balls in those situations, and they end up right at guys. I just haven't been executing my plan very much."
He was on the disabled list the first two weeks of the season after injuring his left knee in the Cubs' last spring game on March 30, but Barney wouldn't use that as an excuse.
"It's unfortunate when your team isn't winning games, and you're doing what I'm doing at the plate. You kind of wear it a little harder than you normally would, just because if you win a game, you can look at your day positively, and you helped the team defensively and maybe a situational hit," he said. "We haven't won a game these past few days, and when you're [personally] struggling, it's not a good feeling."
Barney said he's trying to see more pitches each at-bat.
"When you're not getting your hits, you better see some pitches and find a way to get on base," he said. "It's just one of those things where you have to get away from seeking results and just try to have good at-bats. Besides the last couple days, a few days before that, I felt I was doing that. I just have no hits to show for it."
Cubs to call up Sweeney, option Sappelt
CHICAGO -- The Cubs are expected to call up outfielder Ryan Sweeney from Triple-A Iowa and option Dave Sappelt to the Minor Leagues on Monday.
Sweeney was pulled from the second game of Iowa's Sunday doubleheader and told by manager Marty Pevey that he was headed to the big leagues.
"It's a good feeling," Sweeney told the Des Moines Register. "I put in some hard work down here, and hopefully I'll go up there and transfer it over."
Sweeney, 28, has played for the White Sox, Athletics and Red Sox, and he has a career .280 batting average over seven seasons in the big leagues. Last season he appeared in 63 games for the Red Sox, batting .260 with 16 RBIs. Boston released him on March 30, and he signed with the Cubs on April 2.
A left-handed hitter, he was batting .337 in 23 games with six home runs, two doubles, two triples and 16 RBIs.
Sappelt was used in manager Dale Sveum's platoon against left-handed pitchers. In 20 games with the Cubs, he was batting .178.
The Cubs also may be tweaking the bullpen, and could send right-hander Kameron Loe to Iowa. Loe gave up one run on one hit and two walks in one inning against the Reds on Sunday and has a 5.40 ERA in seven games.
The team could decide that Kyuji Fujikawa is ready to return after one rehab outing. The Japanese right-hander, on the disabled list since April 13 with a strained right forearm, threw 21 pitches in one inning for Iowa on Sunday and struck out two.
Cubs' plan with Marmol is to keep him on the hill
CHICAGO -- The only way Carlos Marmol will get back on track is to keep pitching, and that's the Cubs' plan.
Marmol struggled on Saturday, walking two and hitting another batter, and was the losing pitcher in a 6-4 loss to the Reds. The right-hander, who lost his job as the Cubs closer after the first week of the season, now has walked 12, hit three batters and served up 11 hits over 11 2/3 innings. His ERA is an ugly 6.17.
"I think the biggest thing with Carlos is concentration from pitch to pitch," Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio said Sunday. "When Carlos gets in trouble, along with the rest of the guys, is when they get going too fast, and [Saturday] was a classic case of that. You've just got to slow it down, visualize the pitch and execute the pitch. He's certainly capable of doing that."
Marmol struggled at the start of last season and lost his job as closer then. But he was able to rebound and posted a 1.52 ERA in 30 games after the All-Star break.
"He thinks that guys are going to swing at every pitch out of his hand, and he tries to make every pitch a two-strike pitch, and that's part of the problem," Bosio said of the right-hander. "He tries to bury the pitch and overthrow the pitch. He needs to back off. A lot of times, doing too much can be a deterrent. You're not relaxed. You're not getting the spin on the ball. You're not working over the top of the ball. You're working under the ball. Get him to relax and get him to where he was the second half of last year. That's where we all want him to be, and that's where he wants to be."
On Sunday, Marmol replaced starter Edwin Jackson in the sixth and retired the Reds in order, throwing 11 pitches, seven for strikes. He struck out the first batter he faced, Todd Frazier.
Bosio and Marmol reached an agreement in the second half of last season that the catcher would call all the pitches. If Marmol shook them off, he had to pay the pitching coach a case of wine. Marmol only shook off once in the second half. That same rule applies this year, but that's not the problem; it's executing the pitches.
"I think it's his tempo and concentration for Carlos," Bosio said. "Those are two huge things for him. I just think that at times he tries too hard. He grips the ball too hard, and that's when we see those pitches that aren't executed."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said they'll continue to use Marmol.
"He's one of the seven guys [in the 'pen], and he's got to pitch, and we'll get him back out there in some fashion," Sveum said. "You can't hide people. They have to pitch."
• Cubs pitcher Matt Garza will make his second rehab start Monday for Triple-A Iowa when it hosts Oklahoma City. Garza, sidelined with a left lat strain suffered in mid-February, is scheduled to throw at least three innings.
This will be the first of at least three Minor League outings for the right-hander, who missed all of Spring Training because of the injury, which he suffered during a live batting practice session.
• On Sunday, Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa threw one inning in a Minor League rehab outing, and he struck out two batters while walking one. He threw 21 pitches, 11 for strikes. It's his first game action since April 13. He's been sidelined with a strained right forearm.
• Sunday, Monday and Tuesday marks the first time in nearly 53 years that three different teams will visit the Cubs at Wrigley Field in three days. After Sunday's series finale against the Reds, the Cubs host the Rangers Monday night to make up an April 17 rainout, and then they entertain the Cardinals on Tuesday.
The Cubs last hosted three teams in three days at Wrigley Field Aug. 21-23, 1960, when they played a doubleheader vs. the Giants on the first day, then hosted the Reds on Aug. 22, before starting a series vs. the Pirates on Aug. 23.
• Catcher Welington Castillo had a bruise on his left ankle after he was hit by a pitch in the second inning Saturday but was not seriously injured. Castillo may have helped his recovery by staying in the game. However, he did not start on Sunday.
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.