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Marquez aims for Cy Young; McMahon stays hot

@harding_at_mlb
March 4, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander German Marquez is confident enough, and pitching for the Rockies these days is cool enough, that the mention of a great pitching name brings a nod, rather than guffaws. “Obviously, Cy Young,” Marquez said immediately when outlining his goals, after pitching three innings well, despite surrendering

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander German Marquez is confident enough, and pitching for the Rockies these days is cool enough, that the mention of a great pitching name brings a nod, rather than guffaws.

“Obviously, Cy Young,” Marquez said immediately when outlining his goals, after pitching three innings well, despite surrendering a two-run homer to Rougned Odor in Monday afternoon’s 4-4 tie with the Rangers.

Marquez is part of a youthful rotation that fueled postseason appearances the last two years. Last year, Rockies left-hander Freeland actually finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting, and Marquez struck out 230 to shatter Ubaldo Jimenez’s 2010 club record of 210. There is nothing wrong with a little internal rivalry, as long as it pushes the Rockies toward an even bigger goal not often associated with a franchise that has in the past spent much emotional capital on trying to overcome its own hitter-friendly park.

“Just help the team win and try to win the World Series,” Marquez said through translator and bullpen catcher Aaron Munoz. “Freeland had a great year last year. He’s a great pitcher. We obviously compete with each other.”

Marquez finished 14-11 with a 3.77 ERA, and was 8-5 with a 2.95 ERA in 17 starts after the All-Star break. Once he developed a more consistent delivery, after he and coaches noticed that his windup was slower on secondary pitches, Marquez baffled batters with an increasingly diverse pitch mix.

According to Statcast, Marquez threw fastballs 65.1 percent of the time as a rookie in 2017 (51.3 percent four-seam, 13.8 percent two-seam). He dropped his fastball usage to 55 percent (46 percent four-seam) last season as the slider (15.5 percent, after 4 percent the previous year) became a weapon. He used the curve 23 percent of the time each year. (He credited the left-handed hitting Odor with hitting a decent backdoor curve Monday.)

Marquez, who wants to improve his changeup, said he will “try to do the same thing” as far as mixing pitches.

“Now it’s just a matter of refining what he does, and every outing that he makes -- Spring Training, big leagues -- he’s going to continue to do that,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.

Believe in the numbers

Second base competitor Ryan McMahon doubled and singled Monday -- each hit hard to the pull side -- and is 9-for-18 with three doubles, a triple and a home run this spring.

Last spring, with the team committed to a young bench, McMahon batted .319 but many hits were opposite-field flares. With irregular playing time when the regular season started, his lack of solid contact showed and he found himself in Triple-A Albuquerque by the end of May. But if the contact this spring holds up, McMahon should be a legitimate candidate for regular starts and -- he hopes -- a good regular-season start.

“The best feeling in the world is squaring a baseball up, and that’s all we’re looking for early in spring -- who can square it up, who can feel good,” McMahon said.

He said the confidence came the first time he barreled a ball up this spring, against Jeff Hoffman during a live batting practice. “It was a popup, but I barreled it,” said McMahon, who said he needed the confidence after Freeland had broken his bat earlier.

Black said McMahon is “ripping the ball, taking good aggressive swings.”

Hoffman finds location

The Rangers’ Ben Revere greeted the righty Hoffman with a line-drive double to right, but Hoffman gave up nothing else while striking out two in two innings.

“The curveball in the strike zone was impressive. … Good changeup, too,” Black said. “His fastball-curveball-change mix was outstanding.”

Hoffman is competing for the rotation, but has a Minor League option.

Health and velocity

Righty Carlos Estevez, who missed all of last season with oblique and elbow injuries and is out of options this camp, fanned two in a perfect ninth inning.

“That was a delivery under control, and easy velocity,” said Black, who said Estevez’s fastball averaged 97 mph.

Clash of the MLB Pipeline titans

The Rangers' No. 5 prospect, Bubba Thompson, 20, popped a two-run homer off Rockies No. 4 prospect Peter Lambert, 21. But Lambert finished his outing by escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam -- the last pitch was a changeup to Charles LeBlanc to force a double-play grounder.

Also, third baseman Colton Welker, 21 and the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect, delivered a two-run bases-loaded single, and is 4-for-7 with a home run and five RBIs this Spring Training -- his first in Major League camp.

Up next

Righty Chad Bettis will start, and lefty rotation member Tyler Anderson will pitch against the Brewers and righty Corbin Burnes at 1:10 p.m. MT on Tuesday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.