The first two starts Jason Marquis made in a Nationals uniform came against the Philadelphia Phillies, and he got hammered in both of them. At that point, it looked more like a fluke than a regular occurrence; Marquis had a long track record as a reliable - not spectacular - big-league pitcher, and it was easy enough to write off his first two outings as bad days against a great lineup.
Four months later, it's looking more like a dreadful start from Marquis is going to be the norm. He's only made six of them this year, but the 4 1/3 innings he pitched the last time he was at Citizens Bank Park still stands as his longest of the year. And his start tonight, in that same ballpark, could be his last shot to stick in the rotation.
Twelve hours southwest of Philadelphia, Jordan Zimmermann will be making what could be his last minor-league start before returning to the majors. Zimmermann, who is nearing the end of a year-long recovery from Tommy John surgery, is the pitcher the Nationals have in mind for their future as the No. 2 starter in the rotation, the 24-year-old with the lively fastball, biting slider and the fearless demeanor on the mound. The Nationals committed $15 million to Marquis over two years only to help them bide time until their younger pitchers were ready, and it's no coincidence that Zimmermann is lined up on the same day as Marquis; if the 31-year-old struggles again tonight, it's easy enough to swap him out for Zimmermann.
The tough decisions about Marquis' 2011 status would come later - do the Nationals eat a $7.5 million investment, or do they give Marquis another chance to right himself? But with another bad outing tonight, it's easy enough to apply a tourniquet, and give Zimmermann his shot to come back for good.
We've covered this topic quite a bit, but I'd be curious to hear what you'd do with Marquis after this season. Keep in mind that a $7.5 million salary isn't easily flushed down the toilet, and a rejuvenated Marquis would have some value, either to the Nationals or someone else, next year. How patient should they be with him?