When San Diego Padres starter Jason Marquis takes the hill against Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals on Saturday, it will be nearly two years to the day to the last time he toed the Nationals Park rubber.
Marquis wore the home whites in his last D.C. outing, a two-run, six-inning showing on July 9, 2011. Saturday, he’ll be jogging to the mound from the third-base dugout in road grays, trying to beat the team for which he made 33 starts and posted a 10-14 record from 2010 to 2011.
Marquis signed with the Nationals in December 2009. He pitched in Washington for all of 2010 and the first half of 2011 before being dealt at the deadline to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league shortstop Zach Walters, now one of the prizes of the Nationals’ system.
The 34-year-old said he “loved” his time in D.C., and he has had plenty to compare it to: He has played for eight big league clubs (the Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Rockies, Nationals, D-backs, Twins and Padres).
After posting a demoralizing 8.47 ERA in seven starts with the Minnesota Twins early in 2012, the rubber-armed sinkerballer with a penchant for working in and out of trouble found his game again in San Diego. He has gone 15-11 with a 3.88 ERA in 32 starts since joining the Padres last June.
“I had a blast here,” Marquis said of his time with the Nationals. “…one of the reasons I signed here [was] a good young core of guys. Obviously you can see that by their production now: they’ve had a pretty good team here the past year and a half. To watch these guys grow and become quality pitchers is fun to watch.”
Marquis, who said he stays in contact with several members of the Nationals organization, left the club before its breakout 2012 season. He said he wasn’t surprised to see the Nationals evolve from young and talented to a legitimate contender (or, as the Staten Island native says it, “contendah”).
“When you throw guys like Zim, Strasburg, they traded for Gio Gonzalez — when you throw guys like that out there every five days, your chances of winning go through the roof. They’ve done a quality job of getting good young arms — quality arms — through the organization.
“Hopefully they lose three games here the next few days and go back to winning.”