JUPITER, Fla. -- In the literal sense, Carlos Marmol always gets back in the saddle. He owns a ranch in his native Dominican Republic and spends much of his offseason riding horses.
"That's my hobby," said Marmol, who currently has about 60 horses back home in Bonao. "I breed them. I sell them. One of my passions I've had since I was a kid."
His other passion pays for the hobby. Like his life on horseback, baseball has thrown Marmol only to see him dust off and hop back on the mound. The last of those disgraceful dismounts came last season, when the Cubs designated the struggling Marmol for assignment before trading him to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Control issues are nothing new for Marmol, who since his first full big league season in 2007 leads all major league relievers with 326 walks. That's 93 more than Kevin Gregg, who's second on that list.
In terms of walks per nine innings, Marmol since 2007 is third in the majors with 6.03. Only Brian Bruney (6.14) and J.C. Romero (6.05), both from 2007-'12, have walked more per nine the last seven seasons.
Not exactly reassuring, especially since the Marlins are hoping Marmol can establish himself as a regular eighth-inning guy. It's a low-risk, high-reward deal for the Marlins, who signed Marmol to a $1.25 million base salary.
They were encouraged by what they saw at the end of 2013. His ERA dropped from 5.86 in 27 2/3 innings with the Cubs to 2.53 in 21 1/3 innings with the Dodgers. His strikeouts per nine also ticked up from 10.4 to 11.4, but so did his walks per nine (6.8 to 8.0).
"He's changed his delivery a little bit," manager Mike Redmond said. "I remember him in the past being a little more across his body. It looks like he's squared up and centered up his front foot on his delivery. We know he's got a great slider and a good fastball."
Marmol admitted relying too much on his slider in the past. According to Fangraphs, Marmol in every season since 2007 has ranked among baseball's top five relievers in slider percentage, including first in 2010 (59 percent) and 2011 (64 percent) and second in 2007 (51 percent) and 2009 (54.2 percent).
The only season Marmol logged a higher fastball than slider percentage was 2012, and just barely (51 percent versus 49 percent).
"Sometimes (the slider) will move a lot," said Garrett Jones, who as a member of the Pirates logged 12 at-bats versus Marmol and struck out in half of those. "Sometimes it's a sharp, quick move. Sometimes it's a big, sweeping motion. It's really never the same slider and that makes him tough."
The question is whether Marmol would benefit from throwing the fastball, a pitch that's generally easier to command, more often. He doesn't keep it in his pocket because of velocity issues.
With the exception of 2011, when on average he threw it at 91.8 mph, Marmol according to Fangraphs has maintained an average fastball velocity of 93.2 and 94.1 mph each season.
"I don't know if there's a certain mix," Redmond said. "I think at times guys rely so much on breaking balls because they can get those strikeouts with breaking balls and shy away from their fastballs...I think that happens to a lot of different guys.
"I would say the key to him is maybe pitch selection a little bit, but it's more strikes. That's the biggest thing. If you like throwing a lot of sliders, that's fine, but you have to throw them in the zone. He's got a great slider. There's no doubt, but you have to find that balance of being able to throw that thing for strikes and if not then you have to use your fastball a little more."
Whatever keeps Marmol in the saddle.