Gregg keeping focus on closer role
Reliever expecting strong spring competition with Marmol
MESA, Ariz. -- Carlos Marmol was a little nervous when Cubs manager Lou Piniella told him that while the right-hander was pitching in the World Baseball Classic, Kevin Gregg would be in camp, throwing 98 mph.
Has Gregg been throwing that hard?
"I don't think so lately," Gregg said, laughing.
Piniella was joking, but Marmol is leaning toward skipping the World Baseball Classic to stay in camp and fight for the closer's job. The right-hander has been used as the Cubs' ace setup pitcher the past two years and now wants to be the guy on the mound in the ninth.
"Lou's just messing around," Gregg said of Piniella's prank. "He knows what Carlos can do. [Piniella] hasn't seen me on an everyday basis, so one thing he wants to do in Spring Training is see me pitch and see what I do every day when I go out there. I'm not worried about Carlos either. He'll be fine wherever he goes."
Gregg had 61 saves over the past two seasons with the Florida Marlins, so it would be an easy transition for him. But Marmol has made it clear he wants the job.
"I don't see it as competition," Gregg said. "We're both very good pitchers who can pitch in either role. He's been successful as a setup guy and I've been successful as a closer. Where it leads to this year, we'll see what Lou is going to do and what he feels comfortable with. That's the biggest thing -- what he feels comfortable doing."
Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he expects a decision to be made about three-quarters of the way through the Cactus League games.
"I know both of them can do it," Rothschild said.
Which may make it a tough decision. Expect to see Marmol and Gregg pitching early in games to face the regular hitters -- most teams pull them after a couple innings -- and to avoid having the two sit around for a couple hours.
Neither will likely lead the Cactus League in saves.
"I've never seen the save leader from the Cactus League or Grapefruit League be in the big leagues at the end of the year," Gregg said.
It's a role that Gregg likes. He learned the trade while with the Angels when Troy Percival was the main man in the ninth.
"I've done it for two years and that's what I know," Gregg said. "I'm sure [Marmol] wants a shot to do it, too. I think every guy -- [Chad] Gaudin, [Luis] Vizcaino, [Aaron] Heilman -- every one of us should want to close, every one of us should want to pitch the ninth inning."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.