It's been more than a year since Jason Marquis won a major league game. Since then, he's had an All-Star season spiral downward to the point he was left off the Colorado Rockies' playoff roster, switched teams, posted a 20.52 ERA in three starts, left the last one before recording an out, tried to pitch through bone chips in his right elbow and had surgery.
After all that, Marquis is finally back in the big leagues today, healthy and hoping to redeem what is heretofore his worst season in the majors. And he's doing it at the site of what might have been his best night in the majors
It was June 30, 2009, when Marquis faced the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, throwing a two-hit shutout in just 86 pitches and winning for the 10th time in the first half of the season. That game, and the eight innings of shutout ball he threw against the Nationals in his next start, effectively cemented his place on the NL All-Star team, and the first half of last season formed the basis of why the Nationals committed $15 million to him over the next two years.
Marquis has much to prove yet this season. He is under contract for next year, but the Nationals think they have a surplus of pitching in the majors now or close to it. By next spring, they could have Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Yunesky Maya, John Lannan and Scott Olsen all in the big leagues, and that doesn't even account for the possibilities that they resign Livan Hernandez or Chien-Ming Wang.
It seems likely Marquis will be in the Nationals' rotation the rest of this year and next year, if only because of the money the team owes him. But they could decide to cut their losses at some point if he can't perform, possibly making him a long reliever or eating however much of his contract they'd need to absorb to move him.
Marquis' chance to make his case for 2011 begins today. If he can regain command of his two-seam fastball, he's got a good shot to be the innings-eater the Nationals paid for. The last time he looked like more than that, he was pitching in Dodger Stadium. We'll see if he can get back there today.