Nationals pitcher Jason Marquis looks to build on rehab start

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 12, 2010; D05

Jason Marquis departed the mound at Class A Potomac's Pfitzner Stadium with two outs remaining in the fourth inning Tuesday, wrapping up the beginning of his return to the Washington Nationals after struggling with bone chips in his right elbow.

Marquis threw 54 pitches in 3 2/3 innings with 36 strikes before reaching his predetermined pitch count in the rehabilitation start. He allowed three runs on six hits, while striking out three, walking one and hitting a batter.

Marquis was not made available to comment, but Director of Player Development Doug Harris, who was present, said Marquis did not have any health issues after the game.

"We got him through the outing, no issues," Harris said. "He accomplished his 50 pitches and felt good afterward. That's the biggest thing we accomplished."

The Nationals made a steep investment in Marquis during the offseason when they signed the right-handed pitcher to a two-year, $15 million contract. It was a way of providing a veteran presence to an unsettled pitching staff, but Marquis struggled early in the season.

He was 0-3 with a 20.52 ERA in three starts, a groundball pitcher failing to keep the ball on the ground. Those issues peaked on April 18, when Marquis allowed seven runs without registering a single out.

He went on the 15-day disabled list on April 19 because of the bone chips, which helped explain the slow start. Tuesday marked his return to a game-like situation, and Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman said Marquis could return to the major league club after two rehab starts.

"I hope he comes back and can do what he can do," Riggleman said. "For whatever reason, the ball wasn't down. He's a sinker-ball pitcher that was not keeping the ball in the ballpark. We want to see the real guy when he comes back."

That path required a stop with the Potomac Nationals, where he pitched in front of scouts and few others on a cold evening. A play-by-play announcer in the press box could be heard from the backstop.

Marquis threw only 11 pitches in the first inning, eight of which were strikes. He struggled in the second inning, allowing three runs on five hits. Catcher Derek Norris, one of the Nationals' top prospects, said Marquis's sinker was strong and the only issue was occasionally keeping the ball up because his arm started to drag.

"There's nothing really I can say that Pudge can't say that would be better," Norris said when discussing the mound visits, referring to Washington catcher Iván Rodríguez. Norris said Marquis was still able to make the ball sink and cut.

Harris was less focused on the results than the way Marquis felt. Harris said Marquis is still set for sidework on Thursday and if there are no problems, will have another rehab start at a site to be determined.

"The quality of his stuff is going to come with repetition," Harris said. "To think it's going to happen today, it's just not going to happen that way. We wanted to get him through 50 pitches and get him off the mound in a place where he feels good and he's building his arm. We accomplished that today."

Staff writer Adam Kilgore contributed to this report.

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