LOS ANGELES – No hard feelings, just a new team and a legitimate chance to win.
That’s the perspective which right-hander Jason Marquis, whom the Diamondbacks acquired July 30 from Washington, offered. Marquis will be thrown right into the NL West Division race as quickly as he dons Sedona Red. The 32 year-old veteran of 12 major league seasons is scheduled to pitch against the Giants this Wednesday in San Francisco.
To obtain Marquis, the Diamondbacks sent minor league infielder Zachary Walters to the Nationals. Walters, a 21 year old out of Cheyenne, Wyo. was hitting .302, nine home runs, 56 RBIs in 97 games for South Bend in the Class A Midwest League.
For now, Marquis comes to the desert as a potential savior.
That’s because the Diamondbacks’ rotation has yet to solidify in any kind of uniform consistency. Marquis could be considered the elusive fifth starter Arizona has sought since opening day. Then again, those current “fifth” starters, Josh Collmenter and Micah Owings, could be a potential odd man out and leave Marquis to augment Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders.
Not to slip the collective memory, Marquis is quick to forget a nasty set of circumstances in which he was ejected from a game in June at Chase Field and accused of throwing at Justin Upton. That incident behind, Marquis said, in a conference all with reporters July 30 at Dodger Stadium, he’s ready to move forward and jump right into the pennant race.
“I’m excited about going to a contender and a team knocking on the door,” he said. “I hope to be a piece of the puzzle and can push this team ahead.”
For his part, Upton said he’s ready to welcome his new teammate, and not be concerned about the past.
“No, this will not be an awkward moment,” Upton said when Marquis walks into the D-backs clubhouse for the first time. “I met Jason before as an All-Star teammate (in 2009) and he’s a good dude.”
Marquis, 32, leaves the Nationals with a record of 8-5, 3.95 ERA, and experience with the Braves, Cardinals Cubs, Rockies and Washington. He was a National League All Star with St. Louis in two years ago.
The Diamondbacks organization expects to meet with up Marquis in San Francisco on Monday August 1, and he is scheduled to throw a bull pen session at that time. Then, he gets the ball from manager Kirk Gibson for the Wednesday start.
Considered “a ground ball pitcher,” Marquis said he has a first pitch-first strike approach, and considers himself a control pitcher.
“I get strikes at the bottom of the strike zone,” he affirmed. “I want to get that first pitch in and then rely on my defense. I just want to stay consistent.”
The deal characterized the approach of general manager Kevin Towers and his trading philosophy. In a seemingly never-ending attempt to acquire talent, Towers is the first to admit the Diamondbacks are in a pennant race, and clearly emphasizes the desire to acquire immediate talent to help in the stretch drive.
As well, Towers indicated, in the past, any player acquired would likely be considered in the long term, Yet in the case of Marquis, Towers said the veteran right-hander is here for the moment and to address an immediate need.
“First, we were looking for pitching depth,” Towers said in making the Marquis deal. ”Jason is someone having a good year, has been in this position before and, as a sinker ball pitcher, that is suited to our ball park.”
Marquis, signed through 2011 for $7.5 million, would have to prove his worth if he remains in Sedona Red after the current season.
“We’ll see how the rest of the year goes,” Towers said. “I said before we would consider a player long term if we parted with a high prospect. That did not happen in this trade, so we’ll wait and see.”
Gibson, who also dismissed the Upton incident as “part of the game,” says Marquis brings a competitive demeanor to the pitching staff, and a track record of success.
“He is a guy which definitely adds to our rotation,” Gibson said. “He’s a bulldog and know how to pitch. He’s durable, and brings a great deal to the table.”
At the time of his acquisition, Marquis is slated to go against the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong in the finale of what could be a critical three set with the defending world champions. Match-ups earlier in the series include Kennedy going against Matt Cain Aug. 1, and Daniel Hudson opposes Tim Lincecum on Aug. 2.
With two months remaining in the season, and nine games left with the Giants, including six in San Francisco, Gibson is on the bubble regarding the importance of the up-coming set at AT&T Park.
“You don’t want to put extra pressure on yourself,” he said. “If we take care of business, we’ll be all right. Just go out, and have fun.”
THE OWINGS SAGA
With the acquisition of Marquis, it’s likely Collmenter and Owings will pitch themselves out of contention for a starting spot, rather than gain a spot through performance.
Owings started slowly against the Dodgers July 30 and had his pitch count at 41 after only three innings. In that time, L. A. slammed the right-hander for a three spot in the third, and the frame was highlighted by Matt Kemp’s 26th bomb of the season with one on. That gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead, but the Diamondbacks rallied for a 6-4 win before 37,139 at Dodger Stadium.
“Wherever they want me is fine,” Owings said, reflecting on the Marquis trade. “I just want to help out in any way. (July 30), I felt sharp, felt good, but you have to tip your hat to Kemp. You have to approach the Dodgers with a game plan of not letting Kemp hurt you.”
For the night, Kemp went 2-for-4, and raised his average to .315 in games through July. 30.
The combined loss of the Giants in Cincinnati and Arizona win July 30 moved the D-backs to within three games of West Division San Francisco.
Offensively, Upton continues to swing a torrid bat, and his bases-loaded double in the sixth brought the D-backs into a 6-4 lead. That highlighted a five run frame in which Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley did not help himself with walking three in the inning. All three eventually scored and pushed the D-backs into a lead from which the bullpen held L. A. scoreless the rest of the way.
The relief corps of Ryan Cook, Joe Paterson, Bryan Shaw, David Hernandez and J. J. Putz gave the Dodgers just two hits and two walks over the final four innings.
With a 2-for-4 game, Upton is hitting .304 in games through July 30, including an 11 game hitting streak and getting an extra base hit in 10 straight games. According to the Society of Baseball Research, Upton is the 22nd player since 1887 to collect at least one extra base hit in 10 or more games. The record is 14 set by the Pirates’ Paul Waner from June 3-19, 1927.
“That was a big spot in the game, and the pressure was on them,” Upton said of his game-winning double. “I had a good ball to hit and, in that situation, you’re playing for one run. The wet grass helped and the ball got by the outfielders so we were able to score all three guys.”
NO NEED TO PANIC.
In recent days, the Diamondbacks’ roster moves have not been terribly production.
With shortstop Stephen Drew done for the year, the organization has gambled that Cody Ransom (1-11) and Collin Cowgill (0-11), both of whom have struggled at the major league level, would retain strong numbers each had at AAA Reno.
Despite lack of production from Ransom and Cowgill at this point, Gibson said there is little concern.
“Players get in bad slumps all the time,” Gibson said. “That’s reality. These guys will battle through it and they’ll be fine. You can’t get discouraged.”
Cowgill delivered with his first major league hit when he lined a single, as a pinch hitter, to center off Dodgers’ reliever Scott Elbert leading off the eight inning July 30.
Prior to the July 30 game at Dodger Stadium, the Diamondbacks placed left-handed reliever Alberto Castillo on the DL with left shoulder tendonitis, and recalled Cook from the Reno Aces.