To hear Jason Marquis tell it, a spot in the Cincinnati Reds‘ 2015 rotation is his to lose. Judging from the team’s early Spring Training rotation, released on Thursday, Marquis may be onto something. The 14-year Major League veteran will take the bump first, ahead of all other comers, when the Reds open their exhibition schedule against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday.
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Marquis signed a minor league free agent contract with the Reds last month after missing most of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He last pitched in the Majors for the San Diego Padres in 2013, going 9-5 with a 4.05 ERA before wiping out in late July. Now 36 years old — 37 in August — Marquis will try to resume his career as a Big League starter after nine outings in the minors last year that saw him pitch 51.2 innings of 4.18 ball.
Grabbing the first slot in the Spring rotation would seem to be a good sign for Marquis, who is battling a host of pitchers for two, and possibly three, open rotation slots. Among the other candidates are Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, Paul Maholm, David Holmberg, Dylan Axelrod, and maybe youngster Robert Stephenson. As reported by Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, even Reds manager Bryan Price concedes that Spring Training starts are a valuable commodity:
"We obviously have to slot our guys in to get them ready for the season. We have a pretty good idea. First, you have to get through these live batting-practice sessions and kind of reassess. If everything were to move along as expected, Jason would start the first game of spring. There’s just not enough starts to get eight or nine different guys ready to start games in Spring Training."
With all of these players auditioning for their 2015 baseball lives, getting the most time possible in front of the guys who will make the final call is imperative, and Marquis will have the early leg up in that respect. Following Marquis to the hill will be Tony Cingrani, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake. Assuming Homer Bailey can pull things together after off-season surgery, he’ll partner with Cueto and Leake to form three-fifths of the Reds’ rotation to start the season, which could mean that Marquis and Cingrani have the inside track on the two other slots.
Could Marquis still end up in the Reds bullpen or off the team? Absolutely, but he apparently holds his Riverfront destiny in his own right hand, and he likely wouldn’t want it any other way.