MESA, Arizona -- During Carlos Marmol's stormy tenure as Cubs closer, he's had a number of memorable meltdowns. The one he had Tuesday night in Mesa didn't mean anything, as it was in a spring-training game, but it has to be concerning, as it appeared he was simply serving up batting practice to the Reds. It turned a close game that looked like it would barely crack the two-hour mark into an 11-1 blowout loss that dragged on until it nearly hit three hours.
Six batters faced. Double, single, walk, reached on error, single, single, before Dale Sveum finally had mercy and replaced him with Michael Hamann, a 2012 16th-round draft selection. I wouldn't have expected Hamann to do much better than he did, given that he has 11⅔ innings of professional experience, none above the Northwest League. His tenure Tuesday night: walk, long fly ball for a sacrifice fly, long home run, single and finally, a groundout that ended a nine-run inning for the Reds.
In some fairness to Marmol, the ground ball hit by Emmanuel Burriss, the fourth batter he faced, would likely have been turned into an inning-ending double play by a major-league third baseman; that would have gotten Marmol out of his self-created mess with just two runs given up in the inning, one of them charged to James Russell. Jeimer Candelario, who along with Dan Vogelbach came over from the minor-league camp to play Tuesday night, is a fine prospect. But he is just 19 years old and also hasn't played above the Northwest League, and he booted Burriss' grounder into short center field. That error made half of Marmol's six runs allowed unearned.
All together now: "spring stats are meaningless". But Marmol has had a really bad spring. He's given up nine hits and eight walks in 9⅔ innings for a 1.76 WHIP, with just four strikeouts; he's also hit two batters and thrown a wild pitch. This is definitely worrisome. At least the Cubs have Kyuji Fujikawa, who has closing experience in Japan, to step in if this Marmol trend continues through the regular season.
Until that ninth inning, Cubs pitchers had kept the game close. Jeff Samardzija gave up some hard-hit balls, but just one run in five innings; the other run before the ninth was a ball hit high into the night by Todd Frazier off Hisanori Takahashi. Takahashi did strike out the side in the previous inning; I'd say that his lefthandedness makes him the favorite to take the last spot in the bullpen over Cory Wade. Zach Putnam, the final candidate, was told Tuesday he wouldn't make it. Putnam is young and has an option year left; the Cubs look like they'll have several 40-man roster spots available, so I hope they keep him and option him to Iowa.
The Cubs offense was mostly missing Tuesday night; the only run scored on a pinch-double by Steve Clevenger. With Clevenger told he's going to likely have the final position-player spot on the roster, Dioner Navarro is a useful player to have around. In addition to being the backup catcher, Navarro can be used to pinch-hit, since you'd still have another catcher around in Clevenger. Oh, you wanted to know about the rest of the game? Not much happened; the Cubs loaded the bases with two out in the fourth inning off Johnny Cueto, but Cueto got Darwin Barney to ground into a force play to end the inning. Cueto, who will be the Reds' Opening Day starter, looked like he was in midseason form, allowing just four singles and a walk.
It felt strange to be at HoHoKam at night for the penultimate Cubs game there, given that it had been eight years since the last game under the lights in Mesa. As is the case with many of the spring-training facilities, the lights at HoHoKam aren't really big-league quality; I'd compare them to lights at most Triple-A fields. So from my outfield vantage point, the infield at times looked a bit murky. I can understand teams wanting to play night games the final week of spring training to begin to get players accustomed to the regular-season routine, but I wouldn't want the Cubs to start playing more than a handful of these at their new facility.
Attendance watch: 9,388 were at Tuesday night's game, bringing the spring total to 133,746, an average of 8,359, with one home game remaining at HoHoKam. They're not likely going to draw much more than that Thursday afternoon (and possibly less), which means the spring average is going to be down somewhere in the 15% range from last year.
Speaking of night games, as we were, the Cubs have another one Wednesday night, this one a road contest at Surprise against the Royals. It begins an hour earlier than Tuesday night's game, so don't miss the first hour -- 8:05 CT is the time, with Scott Feldman scheduled to go against James Shields.