Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Another poor outing leaves Jason Marquis' status unclear moving forward.
Can the Nats really send Marquis back to the mound Friday night in Philadelphia? In that bandbox? Against that lineup? With an 0-5 record and 14.33 ERA?
It wouldn't be fair to subject Marquis to that inevitable shellacking, and it wouldn't be fair to force the rest of the Nationals to stand there and watch it all unfold before their eyes. This may not be the greatest roster ever assembled, but it deserves to take the field on a nightly basis believing it has a chance to win.
And right now, if Marquis is on the mound, the Nats have no chance of winning.
Perhaps that's why Jim Riggleman was noncommittal tonight when asked whether a change could be in order.
"Well, obviously I wouldn't say that here. I'll talk to Steve McCatty and Mike Rizzo before we make a decision like that," Riggleman said. "I'm anticipating him going back out there, but it's a results-oriented business. We've got to get better results."
The results are pretty clear: Marquis has been disastrous. He's made five starts this season. He's failed to make it through the fifth inning in any of them. He's put 44 men on base in 16 1/3 innings. He's allowed 30 of them to score.
Check out opponents' offensive numbers against Marquis this year. They're batting .405 against him, reaching base at a .489 clip, slugging .703, producing an OPS of 1.192. In other words, every guy who steps to the plate against him is the greatest hitter of all time.
"It's tough, obviously," Marquis said. "No matter whether you're a year in the big leagues, 10 years in the big leagues, you want to go out there and compete, give your team a chance to win and not embarrass yourself. It's tough. It's eating me alive inside."
As was the case in April when Marquis was getting lit up, the question of health automatically arises. But he says he's fine. His surgically repaired elbow isn't an issue at all.
"Physically, I feel great," he said. "Obviously, I went through what I did with the surgery. But with the rehab, I feel good. I feel like my velocity and life is back on the ball."
So, what's the problem?
"I'm just not making pitches, not putting them where I want them."
Specifically, Marquis can't keep the ball down in the zone. He's a sinkerballer, and his ball's not sinking. Just about every hit he surrendered tonight came on pitches up in the zone.
If Marquis was 26 years old, the decision would be easy. Send him to the bullpen or demote him to Syracuse. That's what the Nationals did with Craig Stammen and John Lannan when those guys struggled (far less than Marquis, it should be pointed out).
But Marquis isn't 26. He turns 32 next week, and he's making $7.5 million this season and another $7.5 million next season. Are the Nats going to eat all that money, or pay him that much to be a mop-up man?
Rizzo has generally been praised for the moves he's made since taking over as GM last year, but it needs to be said: Marquis has been a disaster so far. There's still time for this to change, but at the moment, Marquis is the recipient of the worst contract the Nationals have given anyone since arriving in town. Worse than Austin Kearns' three-year, $17.5 million deal. Worse than Dmitri Young's two-year, $10 million deal.
Can Marquis recover from this and become the reliable rotation stabilizer Rizzo envisioned when he signed him? Perhaps. But it would certainly be nice to see a sign, any sign, he's up to the challenge.
There's no doubt Marquis -- a prideful guy who has posted double-digit wins the last six seasons and has pitched for a playoff team in each of his 10 big-league seasons (til now, of course) -- is agonizing over this.
"I'm sure he's upset, because he's pitched in the big leagues for a long time," McCatty said. "And he knows he's better than what's going on right now. It is what it is."
It is what it is. That's not good, for the Nationals or for Marquis.
The question now becomes: Where do they go from here?