Marquis becomes Rockies’ marquee starter
The Denver Post
DENVER, Colorado –Every ball Jason Marquis threw since Jan. 15 was validated during a casual conversation in the Coors Field weight room last month. A former teammate was working out and offered a candid assessment of the right-hander.
“Your pitches have never had so much life and so much depth,” the player told Marquis, who smiled as he retold the story.
That testimony is reflected in his statistics. When looking for reasons the Rockies have won a franchise record-tying 11 consecutive games and are relevant again, Marquis is a good place to start. He’s 8-4 with a 3.77 ERA. But it goes beyond that. His work has helped raise the dead. He has won six times after losses as it has become increasingly apparent that he’s Colorado’s money starter this season.
It has created an all-star buzz for the 30-year-old, who was acquired specifically to fill Jeff Francis’ void in the rotation.
“He absolutely deserves to be considered with the way he’s performed,” pitching coach Bob Apodaca said. “Every ballclub needs to have that one guy who finds a way to get it done when the team needs it the most. He’s been that for us.”
If Marquis were anyone else, there would a stream of interview requests. Maybe a spot on “SportsCenter.” But history keeps people suspicious. Critics are waiting for his tires to go bald, given Marquis’ history of skidding in the second half (30-37, 4.93 ERA compared with 57-37, 4.22 in the first half).
Problem is, he’s not the same guy anymore.
Over the winter, Marquis embarked on an experiment with his buddy, former big-leaguer Frank Brooks. He tweaked his delivery to stay over the rubber longer in his balance point. This allowed his arm to catch up, leaving him throwing downhill.
When he was traded to the Rockies for reliever Luis Vizcaino, Marquis meshed perfectly with Apodaca. Apodaca had seen Marquis throw when he was a 19-year-old kid and remembered a pitcher with an effective slider. Together the two stayed firm during an ugly spring training as Marquis cleaned up his delivery.
A better release point and a slightly longer stride – 2 to 3 inches – have left Marquis a rock in a rotation that has a 2.49 ERA during the current winning streak.
“I know guys are going good because I don’t pitch much,” long reliever Josh Fogg said. “Just mark Marquis down for seven innings, at least, every time he goes out there. He can do stuff with a baseball that’s amazing. That sinker of his is so heavy, it’s fun to watch.”
Think of a bowling ball falling off a picnic table and you’re getting close. That’s the thing, Marquis could rely exclusively on his two-seamer, and, frankly, he used to when his career derailed during the 2006 season with St. Louis. But after that season, when he was left off the Cardinals’ World Series roster, he met individually with veteran pitching coaches Larry Rothschild and Rick Peterson.
A few weeks later, thanks to Rothschild’s strong endorsement, Marquis signed with the Cubs as a free agent. Rothschild admitted that Marquis went from a “4” on their board to a “7.” Parts of his past history and the lessons remain with Marquis. Now, when an opponent is swinging early in the count, he might mix in a slider or a changeup on the first pitch.
While his workload has become predictable, the plan is not.
“He competes,” manager Jim Tracy said. “He gives you everything he has when he’s out there.”
For Marquis, the Rockies’ revival has been refreshing. He’s never been on a team with a losing record. Talking about contention, he admitted, is more gratifying than worrying about the trade deadline.
“If this team was going south, I would want to be with someone else. But I want that to be in Denver. My family loves it here,” Marquis said. “I want this team to compete and be there at the end. But we haven’t accomplished anything yet. Whether this streak gets to 15 or 20, we have work to do. It’s about how you finish.”
Troy E. Renck: 303-954-1301 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When Flacco drops back to pass, he earns respect without uttering a word, by displaying a gift that’s rare, even at the NFL level.