(MCT) — NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Spring training is still more than two months away, but the Cubs are already in the midst of a closer controversy.
Carlos Marmol's agent, Paul Kinzer, said he expected to talk to President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer this week about his client, who apparently feels unwanted because of the unannounced signing of Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa.
"Just to clarify, Marmol is going to be our closer," Hoyer said Tuesday at baseball's winter meetings here.
That's if Marmol is still on the team, which remains to be seen. Marmol already was told he was traded once this winter, only for the deal with the Angels to fall through. Marmol originally told the Cubs he wouldn't waive his no-trade rights to go to the Angels, saying he loved Chicago and wanted to stay a Cub.
After an hour or so he changed his mind, only to be informed the deal was off. Epstein spoke to Marmol the next day, and Marmol told him he was glad he was still a Cub. But one month later, the signing of Fujikawa had Marmol's head spinning again.
Hoyer said the Cubs have a good relationship with Kinzer and are willing to explain things.
"We've had dialogue," Hoyer said. "I'm sure we'll talk about some more stuff. … If Carlos is on our team, he'll be our closer, and I anticipate Carlos being here."
The Cubs spent the second day of the meetings dealing with agents of free agents and their own players, with no indications they were close to signing anyone this week, other than Fujikawa.
While the Cubs are going to go through some growing pains again in 2013, manager Dale Sveum said "you can only use youth as an excuse for so long. Patience is what it is. A lot of times you understand, and then sometimes things do try your patience."
Among the things trying Sveum's patience was poor baserunning decisions, a lack of hitters' quality at-bats and an inability of pitchers to throw strikes. It was a learning experience for both the players and Sveum, who admitted his decision to use rookie Rafael Dolis as his closer in May was a bad move.
"Those are things you're going to be better at understanding," he said. "Sometimes you do have to make changes and see what happens. And sometimes some changes are unfortunate; they don't work out."
Sveum wasn't given much blame for the Cubs' ineptitude, especially in comparison to the criticism former manager Mike Quade received for the team's embarrassing performance in 2012.
Hoyer said he and Epstein were more than satisfied with the job Sveum did last year, in spite of the 101 losses. They actually went 19-10 from June 25 to July 30, when a talent selloff ignited another plunge.
"That was his first year doing it for a whole year," Hoyer said. "I'm sure there were game situations that probably sped up on him and he'll learn from. Tony La Russa wasn't as good a manager at the beginning as he was in the end."
Hoyer agreed with Sveum's assessment that "youth" shouldn't be an excuse for players. Starlin Castro's focus, for example, no longer should be an issue in his fourth major league season, even given his youth (22).
Sveum's biggest challenge may be getting his players to believe they can win sooner than fans think. He pointed to the Orioles and A's as young teams that believed in themselves and shocked all the experts.
"That's where we're changing the culture … to get (them) to understand when you put on the Yankees pinstripe, it's different than some things, and when you put on a Cubs uniform, you want that to be different," he said.