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Updated: May 20th, 2012 11:13pm
Mackey: The Jason Marquis experiment has failed completely for Twins

Mackey: The Jason Marquis experiment has failed completely for Twins

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

In a meeting last week with manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson, Minnesota Twins right-hander Jason Marquis was said to have been "humbled" by his recent performances.

Not humbled in the sense that he needed to be knocked down a peg or anything, but humbled in that he was open to any ideas that might help turn his season around.

The main message from Gardenhire and Anderson in that meeting was for Marquis to work at a quicker pace than the 25 to 30 seconds he was taking between pitches against the Indians at Target Field last week.

Marquis made a concerted effort to quicken the pace in the first inning on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers, but working at a quicker pace wound up being akin to simply ripping the bandaid off faster.

Marquis was charged with eight earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings, bloating his ERA to 8.47 (7.20 FIP) in seven starts.

When the Twins signed Marquis in December, general manager Terry Ryan said "He's a groundball machine, and he throws the ball over the plate." Ryan added that Marquis was a veteran who could eat innings for a pitching staff that lacked durability in 2011.

Well, Marquis has induced a ton of groundballs -- 54% to be exact, which ranks him just outside the top 10 among qualified starters. The problem is everything that isn't a groundball is usually a scalding line drive or a home run. To compound the problem Marquis has issued 14 walks in 34 innings while striking out only 12.

Marquis hasn't thrown the ball over the plate very often either. Heading into Sunday only Kyle Drabek, Randall Delgado and Hiroki Kuroda had thrown fewer pitches in the strike zone than Marquis (35%). In Marquis' defense, sometimes sinkerballers throw pitches that drop out of the strike zone late. But it would be hard to find anyone who would argue Marquis' control has been pin-point enough to regularly spot his sinker on the bottom edge of the zone lately.

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Marquis entered Sunday's game with the highest contact rate of his career (90%). In fact only two qualified starters (Bartolo Colon and Kevin Correia) own higher contact rates this season.

The Brewers didn't do anything to help. Milwaukee hitters saw 47 pitches from Marquis on Sunday and not once did they swing and miss.

The Twins, however, appear to have swung and missed with Marquis, and at this point it probably doesn't make much sense to continue sending him out on the edge of the plank.

For one, the Twins are 13 games under .500 with the worst starting pitching staff ERA in the league by well over a full run, and Marquis is the team's worst starter. On top of that, Liam Hendriks has allowed only four earned runs in 18 2/3 innings for Triple-A Rochester (1.93 ERA).

Of course, the Twins are down a starter with Nick Blackburn (thigh) on the disabled list, and there are no guarantees Carl Pavano's shoulder will hold up for four more months. Beyond those two, P.J. Walters and Scott Diamond are the only "fixtures" in this rotation.

Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing or Francisco Liriano could step into the rotation on a need-to basis, but they're all better off in the bullpen right now for various reasons.

Within the scope of a $100 million payroll, flushing $3 million down the drain with the 33-year-old Marquis really wouldn't be a crippling blow. And to continue running him out there the way he's been throwing would be waving the white flag once every five days while also keeping Hendriks buried in Rochester.

Here's the thing about Marquis: The guy is a grinder, he says all the right things, teammates respect him, and he seems fairly intuitive when talking about pitching.

But he has posted a sub-4.00 ERA only once as a full-time starter, and that was back in 2004 -- and it was against National League offenses where pitchers face pitchers at least 60 times.

The best-case scenario was for Marquis to slot in as an innings-eating No. 5 starter.

The worst-case scenario has played out.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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