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Updated: March 5th, 2012 9:47pm
Notebook: A deliberate Marquis struggles in first outing since August

Notebook: A deliberate Marquis struggles in first outing since August

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jason Marquis' first start since Aug. 14 wasn't the prettiest, or quickest of outings on Monday night.

In what turned out to be a 10-2 loss by the Minnesota Twins to the Boston Red Sox at Hammond Stadium, Marquis allowed four earned runs on three hits and two walks, and he recorded only five outs before being pulled.

The right-hander threw 46 total pitches (three wild pitches), and of the six batted balls, three went for line drives. Marquis did induce three groundballs, but one of them bounced down the left-field line for a double that left fielder Ryan Doumit kicked into a three-bagger.

Marquis and catcher Joe Mauer also allowed a stolen base.

"I wasn't hitting my spots where I wanted to," said Marquis, whose season with the Diamondbacks came to an early end last year when a line drive broke his right leg. "When I was keeping the ball down, the ball was on the ground. It's early in spring. This is the first time I've been on the mound since mid-August. ... So I was excited definitely to be out there. I work every day to make sure come April everything's right."

Many people thought the Jason Marquis signing this offseason by the Twins -- one year, $3 million -- was a head-scratcher. And even though the 33-year-old didn't do much to prove skeptics wrong on Monday night, he said he doesn't put much stock into early-spring results.

"Not until the end," Marquis said. "I really feel like you do need some positive results come the last few starts, the last two, as it gets closer to the season. The first three or four you're really just trying to get a feel for what you've worked on leading up to spring training and early in camp."

Perhaps most noticeably, Marquis took :25, :30 and :37 between his last three pitches, respectively -- a much slower pace than his already-plodding :25 average pace the last two seasons, according to Fangraphs.

Fangraphs clocked Scott Baker (:23) as the Twins' slowest-paced pitcher in 2011.

"I don't really screw with veterans too much," Gardenhire said of Marquis. "It did slow the game down, but I think he was trying to find it. He was trying to get a feel for where he wanted the ball to come out. He fell down about three times out there, so I think he was trying to figure out a lot of things. ...

"I'm not worried about what he's going to do here. We always talk about the pace of the game. Some guys are going to work a little slower than others. It's like trying to tell Carl to pick up the pace. Carl's going to be Carl. Certain guys have been doing it for a long time. Young kids are the ones that we're trying to motivate -- get the ball, get back up on the mound and throw the baseball. That starts when they're young. It doesn't start after you've been pitching 10 years in the big leagues. You don't change a guy like that."

Marquis hasn't posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2004, and in three of the last four seasons he has been unable to complete more than 167 innings.

And that was in the National League.

The Twins are hoping to get 2009 production out of Marquis -- a season in which the right-hander posted a 4.04 ERA over 216 innings with the Colorado Rockies. Marquis induced 56% groundballs that season, and he maintained similar worm-killing rates in 2010 and 2011.

In fact, groundballs and innings are really two of the Twins' top priorities for starting pitchers this year. Only one of the Twins' starters threw more than 156 innings in 2011, and the staff as a whole finished 20th in groundballs induced.

Mauer hot early

With a 2-for-3 night at the plate on Monday, Mauer is now 3-for-5 through two games with three sharp singles -- including an opposite-field base hit that drove in a run in the fifth inning.

Mauer said his two main goals in spring training are, "Just try to see more pitches," and "get on time for a fastball, controlled."

It's early, but Mauer looks like he's timing things pretty well already.

"A couple of them," he said. "A couple times you take pitches and you don't feel it. It'll take a little while. I've been feeling good lately."

Mauer will not travel to Port Charlotte on Tuesday, but he will play first base in Sarasota on Wednesday against the Orioles. Justin Morneau is scheduled to DH in that game.

Numbers game

4: Former Twins players in the Red Sox starting lineup on Monday -- first baseman David Ortiz, DH Darnell McDonald, shortstop Nick Punto and outfielder Jason Repko.

15.9: The average number of seconds between pitches by the quickest worker in baseball last season, Mark Buehrle, according to Fangraphs.

200: Career home runs for former Twins first baseman Don Mincher, who passed away on Monday at age 73. Mincher played seven seasons with the Twins from 1961 to 1966, hitting .244/.340/.479 with 92 home runs and 77 doubles.

1: Errors made by left-fielder Ryan Doumit, who turned a double into a three-bagger for McDonald in the second inning. Doumit has never played a regular-season major league game in left field.

53: Miles per hour clocked for one of Vicente Padilla's breaking balls to Mauer. "He's done that to me a couple times," Mauer said. "That one you just kind of throw out the window and wait for him to come 95."

0: Hits in two plate appearances for Morneau, who grounded out to second and struck out looking.

5: Earned runs allowed by right-hander Deolis Guerra in the seventh inning. Guerra gave up four hits, including a three-run homer to Dan Butler.

Health report

• First base coach Jerry White was sent to the hospital for precautionary reasons Monday afternoon due to stomach and chest tightness.

• Infielder Ray Chang left Sunday's game at JetBlue park early after taking a knee to the jaw while sliding into second base. Chang said he's OK, except for some soreness. And a spasm. "Yeah, it was weird," he said about the spasm. "I was chewing food and chewing, chewing, chewing. I tried to bite something hard and all of a sudden it just froze. It was like, 'What the heck is going on?' I tried rubbing it out a little bit, getting the feeling back and then it slowly started to loosen up a little bit. It was crazy."

Overheard

"The ball was sinking. Sometimes I get my arm angle too high and I get inside the ball, which leads to me spiking a lot of pitches like I did tonight. Just a little key in my delivery that I spoke about with Andy earlier in spring to keep an eye out for. We talked about it when I came out of the game. It's just one of those things where game competition somehow brings out a little more adrenaline, a little more fire, a little more speed in your delivery, and just got to get accustomed to that again."
-- Marquis, talking about mechanics

"New policy -- I'm not (talking about) injuries or pitching."
-- Gardenhire, joking about post-game media policy

On deck

Tuesday: @ Rays, 12:05 p.m. RHP Scott Baker vs. RHP Jeff Niemann
Wednesday: @ Orioles, 12:05 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen
Thursday: vs. Rays, 12:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano vs. RHP Chris Archer

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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