[pictured, Cubs GM Jim Hendry, not having the best of luck dealing the guy he trashed so hard in 2009.]

After enduring years of the blistered Kerry Wood and a season of the hapless Kevin Gregg, Carlos Marmol finally heard Lou Piniella shrug off any question of whose closing and reiterate that Marmol is his man.  2 years too late, imo, but welcome news none the less.  For once, Marmol doesn’t have to show up to Spring Training and compete for his job.

Apparently, the chase for Milton Bradley is cooling off considerably.  Rumors of interest from the Mets, Royals, and Rangers died overnight.  The Trib‘s Paul Sullivan reports this AM that the Mets dropped out of any Bradley talks because it meant involving a Pat Burrell deal from Tampa Bay to NYC, of which NYC has no interest.  Royals and Ranger interest was just a Jim Hendry pipe dream, meaning for the moment, Bradley might be too expensive to lose “ exp if the Rays are his one option and they know it.  It was Hendry’s temper tantrum last year that gave Bradley a stupidly harsh 15-game suspension and made it all but sure that Bradley would leave town, because it would undercut Hendry otherwise.  Hendry painted himself into a corner, as if it was 2005 when Hendry cracked down on the crybaby Cubs of Dusty Baker’s era.  In 2009 he hasn’t got the Trib wallet to indulge him.  Is the Ricketts family about to eat that kind of money to stop Hendry from eating crow?   Or in Wrigley’s case, Jim Crow.   Players like Ryan Dempster say they’d welcome Milton back.  If Hendry has to back down for the new owners “ and there’s no guarantee Hendry’s job is written in stone “  others probably won’t be far behind.  Indeed, one unnamed manager wondered aloud to Sully why Hendry doesn’t just bite the bullet and play MB:

Hendry spoke to five or six clubs about trade possibilities Monday on the opening day of the winter meetings. But if the Rays are the only serious suitor, they could wait out the Cubs, hoping new owner Tom Ricketts will eventually decide that eating the bulk of the contract is preferable to another year of distractions.

Bradley’s agent, Seth Levinson, declined to comment Monday night, while Hendry has declined to address the Bradley situation since the suspension. But the belief among baseball insiders that Hendry can’t bring Bradley back under any circumstance makes his task that much more difficult.

One major league manager said Monday he would gladly take Bradley, though he added his general manager wasn’t interested because of possible negative reaction by the team’s fan base. Another manager asked why the Cubs don’t just bite the bullet and bring Bradley back rather than giving him away.

Cubs starter Ryan Dempster said in October that he and his teammates would welcome Bradley back if the Cubs weren’t able to trade him. Does manager Lou Piniella feel the same way?

While Piniella didn’t have much to say to Chicago media, he told the St. Petersburg Times: “I would think a different environment would help him immensely, and I think a place like Tampa Bay would be a place he would flourish.”