Conversation starter: Marmol rejuvenated

Conversation starter: Marmol rejuvenated

MESA, Ariz. -- It looks like Dale Sveum's talk with Carlos Marmol paid off.

Marmol, the Cubs closer, had struggled in his two previous outings. Sveum, the Cubs manager, met with Marmol in his office on Wednesday for a chat.

"We had a nice conversation," Marmol said Thursday. "He told me what I needed to do. It's nice to have a manager talk to you like that."

On Thursday, Marmol entered in the sixth against the D-backs and walked the first batter he faced, but then struck out the next one, and one out later, gave up a single before getting a groundout to end the inning.

He was smiling as he came into the clubhouse.

"I felt different," Marmol said. "[Sveum] talked to me yesterday and I feel different. I was myself, I calmed down a little bit. It's good the manager gives you the opportunity and he lets you know that he thinks about the players."

Past Cubs managers also have talked to Marmol, but the right-hander said Sveum's message was different.

"Every person has a different personality," Marmol said. "Now, I think he's a good guy, understands the players."

Sveum downplayed the talk.

"It was more of a conversation and confidence thing about how much he means to the team and Spring Training is what it is sometimes and don't get carried away with it and just keep working to get better, that's all," Sveum said.

The Cubs were pleased to see Marmol get the last out of the inning on a sinker using a new grip that pitching coach Chris Bosio suggested.

"Communication is huge," Sveum said. "It's just a matter of treating these guys like human beings and understanding they're human. No matter how much money they make or the problems they have, whether it's the top guy or the 25th guy on the roster, they're all human beings and they're going to fail. There's so much negativity in this game you have to give everybody confidence. These guys are Major League players and they've had lots of success and sometimes they doubt that ability to get big league hitters or hit in the big leagues or whatever it might be."

The Cubs need Marmol to get on track after leading the National League in blown saves last season. His teammates support him.

"It's Spring Training in Arizona," pitcher Ryan Dempster said. "In Spring Training, there will be a lot of those struggles. The ball flies, the infields are fast. Sometimes you see the numbers and you look at them as struggling, but I think the way the ball is coming out of his hand is the most important part. I think he'll be just fine."

Marmol did throw a couple sliders on Thursday but said he focused on his two-seam fastball. Asked if he's set any goals, the right-hander said he'd like to win, then admitted he wants to make the All-Star team again.

When the Cubs play the Cardinals for the first time in the regular season on April 13, St. Louis was expected to hold its ring ceremony to celebrate winning the 2011 World Series.

"That's going to be hard [to watch]," Marmol said. "The ring, that's what we're looking for. We're jealous last year with St. Louis winning. We're trying to get that ring."