Classic won't affect closer competition

Classic won't affect closer competition

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Cubs right-hander Carlos Marmol won't lose the closer's job while pitching for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

Marmol, who will get one more Cactus League appearance on Monday before he joins the Dominican team, is competing with Kevin Gregg for the spot.

"If Marmol had been our closer here last year, I'm sure he would've gone without even thinking about it," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said on Sunday of the right-hander, who was the team's primary setup pitcher in 2008.

"It's an honor to represent your country," Piniella said. "He's here competing for a job, and he was a little concerned. I said, 'Lay your fears to rest. We'll let you compete for that job when you get back and we'll make a decision then.' No decision will be made without Marmol being here."

Piniella had joked with the right-hander that Gregg would be throwing 98 mph in camp while Marmol was away and may have the edge for the job. Last week, Marmol said he wasn't going to participate in the World Baseball Classic, but on Saturday, said he'd changed his mind.

"I could tell he wanted to go," Piniella said, "but he was concerned about going."

Marmol will leave Arizona on Tuesday to join the team. There are pitch-count limits for relievers as well as starting pitchers participating in the World Baseball Classic, and Marmol will not be allowed to pitch in consecutive games.

Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly, who will start the third game for Team USA, left Arizona on Sunday to join the squad in Florida. He said he also was having some second thoughts about leaving the Cubs.

"Part of me wants to be here with them, too," Lilly said. "Derrek Lee was talking to me about it the other day, and he said he had such a great time [in 2006]. He had a lot of encouraging things to say about it. It's going to be fun."

2009 Rosters

Piniella and Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild have talked to both Marmol and Lilly about being careful. It's still early in Spring Training.

"Last year, it took Lilly a while to build up arm strength in Spring Training," Piniella said. "This year, he's way ahead of where he was, which is good in a way. You go over there [to the World Baseball Classic] and try to overdo and it can set you back real quick."

The Dominican team will open play on March 7 against the Netherlands in Puerto Rico, while Team USA will face Canada at Rogers Centre in Toronto the same day.

The Cubs also have Kosuke Fukudome (Japan), Geovany Soto (Puerto Rico), Alex Maestri (Italy) and Vince Perkins (Canada) participating in the World Baseball Classic.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.