A few days ago, Lou Piniella said he wasn't worried about setup man Carlos Marmol's struggles. But Marmol's deepening slump has the Cubs' manager changing his tone and making some bullpen changes.
''Yeah, it's starting to be a little bit of a concern, to be quite honest,'' Piniella said after Marmol gave up a three-run home run to the only batter he faced Thursday, the third appearance in a row in which he has allowed a homer.
For now, the fallout is that right-hander Sean Gallagher, who started Thursday, is going back to the bullpen and Marmol is going back to the drawing board.
Piniella, who started the afternoon by talking with Marmol about concentrating harder on his location, finished the night wondering if Marmol is tipping his pitches. He's planning a film-study session for today in St. Louis to see if they can figure things out.
He stopped short of saying he would use Marmol in different situations, although that's an obvious alternative, depending on what the video reveals today.
''It's hard to give up home runs like he's been giving them up on a consistent basis,'' Piniella said, ''even if you tell the hitter what's coming. Maybe he is. It's the same pitch. It's up in the zone.''
Piniella said before the game he wasn't concerned about Marmol's confidence. And Marmol said his confidence -- and his arm, for that matter -- are fine.
''I feel great out there,'' he said, adding he's just as eager to take the ball again in a hot spot. ''Sure, why not? When you're struggling, you want to get [back] out there. I want to be there.''
This despite a seven-appearance stretch (five innings) in which he has walked seven, hit three and given up 10 earned runs as his ERA has shot from 2.09 to 3.75.
''It's one of those things where he's been almost like a machine,'' said teammate Ryan Dempster, who has been through several of his own slumps as a reliever. ''It's a great thing and a detriment because everybody expects you to be perfect every single time. We're human beings. You're going to make mistakes.
''He's been a big part -- and will be a big part -- of us doing anything here.''
Outfielder Reed Johnson (back spasms) was activated from the disabled list and went right into the lineup, batting leadoff and playing left field. Infielder Eric Patterson was optioned to Class AAA Iowa.
Another move comes today, when Carlos Zambrano (shoulder strain) is activated from the DL, probably resulting in a demotion back to Iowa for reliever Jose Ascanio, who pitched Thursday for only the second time since his recall last weekend.
''I've been wanting to see him a little bit; I like his arm,'' Piniella said. ''I wish we'd gotten a chance to see him a little bit more. But we'll see what happens [today].''
Grab a bat
Injured left fielder Alfonso Soriano (broken hand) is expected to start hitting a ball off a tee today in St. Louis after an X-ray taken Thursday in Chicago showed the hand is healing as anticipated.
It would be the first time he has been allowed to swing a bat since suffering the injury June 11.
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