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Jason Marquis's turn

One of the jobs of a staff anchor is to be a stopper, a salve when everything is going wrong. The Nationals could really use Jason Marquis fulfilling that aspect of his job description for the first two innings today in Port St. Lucie against the Mets. It's not the end of the world that Nationals have pitched poorly the first four games of spring, but they need something to go right some time.

Marquis will be counted on all season to provide stability, a task he and John Lannan, given their track record, should be up to. Marquis is a 10-year veteran, but he broke into the majors at age 21. He's got 1,485 innings of tread on his tires, but he is still 31. Marquis keeps himself in impeccable shape and thinks his best pitching lies ahead.

"I feel like I can be better," Marquis said. "I feel like I get better. Be more consistent making pitches. I feel like I still have a lot of stuff left in the tank. My body feels good. My mind feels good. I can only get better from here on out. As long as I do the little things that keep my body in shape, I don't see why I can't get better."

As for today, he'll hope to join the select group of Nationals who have pitched well this spring: J.D. Martin, Garrett Mock, Drew Storen, Logan Kensing, Aaron Thompson, Tyler Clippard and, perhaps most intriguing, Atahualpa Severino.

Severino, 25, is a 5-foot-9, side-winding lefty who has never pitched above Class AA. He had a 2.62 ERA last year in Potomac and Harrisburg. Two Nationals front office members have said this spring they think he might pitch out of the Nationals bullpen this season. He's a name to know.

Also today, Matt Chico will make his first start of the spring. Earlier this spring, Chico said he feels like the Nationals have never really seen him at his full strength. Here is an epically helpful resource for when it comes time to make cuts. Stephen Strasburg appeared on CBS Evening News last night. With the Nationals off to such a horrendous start, it's good to have perspective.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 7, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
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Next: Today's lineup


How is this for perspective;

Nats lost yesterday to what amounts to the Mets AAA Buffalo team which had one of the worst records in the IL last year! Today in Port St. Lucie they will play against the Mets, Jason Bay, David Wright blah,blah,blah so please bloggers don't insult everyones baseball intelligence with the old bromide "its only spring training". The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies, Braves don't have to win a game in ST, the Nats on the other hand have create a culture of winning, not a set of small successes. Slip-slide and wait for some phantom light to turn on around 4 April is not acceptable. Go back and check past years, the Florida Marlins recently have put together really good springs and that has carried over to competitive seasons with the lowest payroll in the big leagues, think ST doesn't count? Think again. When a MLB team is basically irrelevent in the town it calls home then there is no room for "its only spring training". Its just more fodder for the DC baseball hating crowd!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 7, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

TC is exactly correct. Riggs knows it, Rizzo knows it, Stan knows it.....The media is just eating up the Spin.

Beat writers change.

Employers of the same beat writers change.

One thing that never changes it seems is the lack of critical analysis from the media covering this team. This start is a HUGE RED FLAG....for the reasons TC points out.

Yea it is not the way it is for other teams but these are the cards STAN and LERNER dealt themselves with the decisions the made in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009!

Posted by: JayBeee | March 7, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Agree with Tippy, especially on baseball-hating crowd. Listening to the sportstalk stations, it's amazing how these guys go on and on analyzing the results from NFL combine week and discussing the Redskins' salary cap situation, yet dismiss any discussion of baseball strategy or statistics as "too much inside baseball" or "nerdish."

Am concerned about the earlier talk we heard (from the front office?) about how all but one or two of the slots in the Nats' bullpen were "locked up." Based on (1) performance last season, (2) career track record, and (3) contractual situation (options available, money spent to sign them in offseason, etc), how many of these bullpen candidates should be considered locks for the 25-man roster on opening day? Is Tyler Walker, e.g., such a proven commodity that he has carte blanche to spend the preseason "working on things" without regard to results? We remember when Ryan Church did just that a couple of springs ago and what happened to him; would like to see Rizzo & company take the same approach this spring.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | March 7, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I guess when you bring 37 pitchers into camp, it's a pretty good sign that you don't trust many of your arms. That said, lots of the people who pitched the first few games will not be wearing a Natinals jersey anytime soon.
But getting hammered, consistently, by a bunch of hitters who also will not be wearing an MLB jersey anytime soon, is unsettling.
And so now, the next couple days will be more important than any March 7 and 8 games should be. Marquis, Chico, Strasburg.....please show us you're ready.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 7, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I haven't had time to follow the games closely, although I've been reading wrap-ups here and elsewhere. I realized it's just ST, but I agree that it *is* a tad unsettling, particularly given the trajectory of past seasons. (I guess this wouldn't be a good time to mention that Acta's Indians are now 2-0 in ST games? ;-))

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 7, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Crud. Where's *my* proofreading elf? Must be on coffee break. And the stupid spellchecker doesn't catch this kind of stuff. (grumble grumble)

"realized" = "realize"

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 7, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang...well, it IS only S.T.....but when you have a team with back to back 100 loss campaigns, told everyone you needed 2 MLB arms in the off season and didn't get 'em(Wang ain't ready, and who knows?) just brings back those queasy feelings right below the surface. We all WANT this team do do good-we're tired of saying "told you so"....and we're tired of Schadenfreude. And yea-winning begets winning, whether the games count or not.
SO-we all know it's early days...but there is a past here to's like getting in a Toyota without the past excellence. You're telling us the problems are fixed but....ahh,'s spring, I say we're gonna be in the wild card hunt!
Go Nats!!!!

Posted by: zendo | March 7, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

"The Nationals could really use Jason Marquis fulfilling that aspect of his job description for the first two innings today in Port St. Lucie against the Mets."

"Also today, Matt Chico will make his first start of the spring."

Isn't it going to be kind of crowded out there on the mound with both Marquis and Chico on it to start the game? And with two pitches to choose from, doesn't that make it more likely that the batter will get a good one to hit?

Posted by: TBCTBC | March 7, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

TBC2: Crowded? Not really: Marquis is right-handed - Chico is left-handed.

Posted by: BinM | March 7, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

If they continue throwing too many pitches, walking so many batters, not throwing strikes ... won't it be "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?"

Posted by: periculum | March 7, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

The Nats have to have a good game just to relieve a little of our grumpiness.

No jumping on Kilgore, though. For Pete's sake, he is giving the team a whole lot of attention, and being entertaining while doing it. Keep the snarliness for the Nats while they are losing (and I mean team and FO together).


Posted by: kevincostello | March 7, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Not my intention, and I hope it's no one else's, to insult anyone's intelligence here. A different perspective: The Marlins started 11-1 last season after going 12-19-2 in the spring. The Phillies were 13-19-2. The Dodgers were 15-22. The Pirates, on the other hand, were 17-15-2, and even the Nats were 15-17-2 (wouldn't have seemed like cause for alarm, would it?)

Yes, I want the Nats pitching to come around as quickly as possible, but there's no guarantee a great spring will carry over. Two seasons ago, Bergie looked like he really had it together after his last spring start. And we know what happened.

Posted by: nats24 | March 7, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

1/2 st,

You are absolutely correct about Kilgore--he's doing a great job!

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | March 7, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Adam Kilgore wrote:
"Marquis will be counted on all season to provide stability, a task he and John Lannan, given their track record, should be up to."

I take issue with this statement. Over the course of a season, I do expect Marquis to fill the roll of stopper more often than not. Lannan's track record however, shows that he cant be counted on to do the same. In his career, the Nats have won only 36% of the games he's started, while Marquis' teams have won almost 60% of his starts during that same time period.

Some might say that the teams that Marquis pitched on were different, because they were always contenders and playoff teams, but that would be a false statement. The reason being, no team can contend unless its starting pitchers pitch well enough to give them a chance to win on a consistent basis.

I love the Nats as much as anybody, but I wish people would stop putting players, in this case Lannan, at a level they've not come close to reaching. Lannan, at best, is a middle of the rotation starter. To expect more of him is living in a dream world.

When an average starting pitcher gets raised to the level of ace by fans, it's proof that they've become too accustomed to mediocrity. Expect more, demand more, accept nothing less.

Posted by: KenzAFan | March 7, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

The remark about "our grumpiness" is right on the mark.

It is just early ST, but the consistently massive opposition run totals are starting to make me grumpy.

I'm pretty patient, but even in early ST, I feel entitled to an occasional game where our pitchers give up fewer than 10 runs. Today would be a good time to get one of those.

Posted by: KenNat | March 7, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

As I posted to Phil is not the record that matters. Spring Training RECORDS mean nothing....Spring training performaces across a whole team do mean something...a team ERA of over 12 against weak AA and AAA hitters means something is wrong with the talent evaluation of Rizzo and his staff.

It means Estes, English, and the rest of his 40 man roster decisions are putting the team at risk to repeat 100 loses. He needed to sign better players in the off season and yes that would mean spending more money!

Posted by: JayBeee | March 7, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Not sure to whom the comment applied, but it's not my intent to insult anyone in terms of their intelligence or any other aspect of their being, 1924. That's not my thing.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 7, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Crud. I mean "24" not "1924."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 7, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

KenzAFan, look at Lannan's run-support over the last 2 years. It has been putrid. He has pitched well enough to win A LOT more games than he actually has won, b/c his team hasn't been scoring any runs for him.

Posted by: usmc53 | March 7, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

actually, there is a nats1924 out there, 1a1, and no, certainly, I am not directing that comment at you, one of the nicest and most consistently polite posters here.

Posted by: nats24 | March 7, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, nats24. Good to know that I didn't imagine the "1924" fan. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 7, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The interesting thing is the "what if". What if those young starters who couldn't get many quality starts in suddenly do! Because they have gotten their hard knocks and learned from them. What if those young relievers have learned to throw strikes ...

What IF THEY look better than the veterans that Rizzo brought in?

Posted by: periculum | March 7, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Wondering about which other pitchers got on the bus this morning; Figuring that after Marquis & Chico, it would be any of the relievers that threw on the 4th, so it's a list of nine (pick six).
Atilano, Bergmann, Bruney, Capps, Kensing, Peralta, Storen (RH); Guardado, Villone (LH).

Posted by: BinM | March 7, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

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