CHICAGO -- It was Opening Day at Wrigley Field on Monday, and may be the last one before the Cubs begin a $300 million renovation plan at the ballpark. The Cubs are still waiting for approval from the city regarding changes they want to make, and negotiations are ongoing.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said Monday they are moving forward but wouldn't set a deadline for a decision.
"I'm not going to put a time frame around it because there's a public part of the process that has to happen," Ricketts said. "We look forward to getting the public part of the process started."
There will apparently be public hearings regarding some of the issues, such as parking in the Wrigleyville neighborhood. Ricketts said he wasn't sure what the objections were, but said the club is "sensitive to things that affect the neighbors. We want to be responsive to issues the neighbors have."
The Cubs also want more flexibility in terms of scheduling their games. There's a long list of items to be finalized before work can begin.
"I'm optimistic," Ricketts said. "I think everything is headed in the right direction. ... We're working under the assumption that everyone is working toward getting this done as soon as possible and moving forward."
Some of the players have seen improvements at other ballparks and the positive impact they've had.
"I remember in Kansas City, all the renovations they did there, it made the ballpark experience that much better," Chicago outfielder David DeJesus said. "When they do that here, the fans will want to keep coming back and it will draw people from everywhere."
Ricketts said one of the top priorities was to improve the home clubhouse, starting this offseason.
Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, said the changes will help the team in the future.
"I look at it as I look at making a good decision on the Draft," Epstein said. "It's something that's really important, but it's not going to impact us immediately. It's something we need to get right because it will impact our club a couple years down the line just like the Draft will, but as far as it's bearing on the 2013 season, it's not really related at all."
There was a belief that the Cubs would make an announcement Monday, but Epstein said he believed talks were progressing.
"The guys who are in the midst of the negotiations say there is a lot of momentum and obviously they wouldn't keep talking if they weren't close," he said. "They're still talking and still hopeful to get a deal done, there's still time to get a deal done. We'll see what happens."
The renovation plan includes a better clubhouse and facilities for the players, and if approved, it would mean a Jumbotron video scoreboard and more night games.
"I think the day games can be a competitive advantage for us, too, because we can adjust to it," Epstein said. "[Playing more night games] is more about revenue than it is about competitiveness. It'd be nice to have the flexibility."
Patience, slider important for Marmol
CHICAGO -- The Cubs are hoping Carlos Marmol responds this year the same way he did last season when he lost his job as the closer. They just need the fans to be a little patient.
Marmol was replaced as closer on Sunday after struggling in his first three appearances. Last season, he struggled at the beginning and compiled a 5.16 ERA in his first 31 appearances. In 30 games over the second half, he had a 1.52 ERA.
When introduced at the Cubs home opener on Monday, Marmol was booed by the crowd of 40,083. He was booed again when he entered the game in the eighth and served up a double to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun on a first-pitch fastball.
"I'm not the first one, [I won't be] the last one," Marmol said. "I'm fine. I'm trying to do my job and trying to get people out. That's what I need to do."
After Braun's double, Marmol struck out Rickie Weeks, walked Jonathan Lucroy, which prompted more boos, struck out Alex Gonzalez and got Martin Maldonado to ground out to end the inning.
"I felt good getting those last people out," Marmol said. "It's been tough for me to get three outs and put a zero on the board and I did it."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said it was tough to hear the fans razz Marmol.
"You're with these guys every day and you know who they are behind the scenes and the adversity they have to go through," Sveum said. "On Opening Day, to get booed like that isn't fun for anybody. Bringing him in the game, he had to [hear] it twice in one day. It's unfortunate, but that stuff happens. It's tough for all of us in that clubhouse to see it."
As for the outing Monday, Sveum said it was encouraging to see Marmol throw his slider for strikes and escape any further damage after Braun's hit.
Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, supported Sveum's decision to make Kyuji Fujikawa the closer in place of Marmol.
"I think he made the right call," Epstein said prior to the Cubs' 7-4 loss. "Marmol bounced back last year to have a really solid second half. Of course, he should've started this year as our closer. You don't lose your job after two bad outings at the end of Spring Training. To do that would be counter to everything we believe in.
"He pitched really poorly three times to start the year," Epstein said. "It was important for the team to make a change. We need to believe we can win these close games late. For Marmol, last year, he went back after struggling, fixed himself and came back and contributed. We need to be open to that possibility again."
Sveum said they want Marmol to work on his pitch selection and not get "fastball happy."
"He had a wipeout slider at one time in his career, and now it's not as consistent but it's still his out pitch," Sveum said of Marmol. "He needs to throw fastballs but still understand you're a slider pitcher. If things go awry, get back in counts with fastballs, but let's not get away from our bread and butter either."
Marmol has given up five earned runs on six hits and two walks over 1 2/3 innings in three games, and served up a game-tying home run to B.J. Upton and a walk-off homer to his brother, Justin, on Saturday in Atlanta.
• Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney has been cleared to do all baseball activities, but won't get the stitches removed from his left knee until later this week.
Barney, on the disabled list with a knee laceration sustained March 30 in the last exhibition game, was able to participate in all drills during batting practice. If all goes well, Barney will begin a rehab assignment this weekend with one of the Minor League teams and then could be activated April 16.
"I'm cleared for everything," Barney said Monday.
• Matt Garza, who threw 35 pitches in his second bullpen on Sunday in Atlanta, will throw a couple more bullpen sessions and then is expected to begin a Minor League rehab assignment. Garza has been sidelined since Feb. 17 with a strained left lat. He's hoping to return in May.
• Last season, Cubs fans had to deal with a 101-loss season. Most understood the growing pains of the team's rebuilding process. Does manager Dale Sveum expect fans to be patient this year?
"You can only have so much patience," Sveum said. "Obviously, they were great to us in hard times last year and understanding the process in the organization. There's only so much you can take, especially when you have some of the best fans in the country and passionate. It's not just Chicago -- we have a following throughout the whole country. The patience has to give way sometimes -- that's just the nature of the beast."
There's no truth to the rumor that Theo Epstein's hair turned gray since he took over as Cubs president of baseball operations.
"Ten years in Boston will do that to you," Epstein said of the flecks of gray. "Lots of blown saves. I remember my first road trip with the Red Sox, we opened on the road in '03, we blew a save Opening Day, blew another one in Toronto, blew another one in Baltimore. They might have sprouted back then. It's not a new development."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.