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Notes: Márquez, Desmond, Blackmon

@harding_at_mlb
March 1, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander German Márquez ranked high in multiple categories among National League pitchers when the Rockies shut him down in August with right arm inflammation, but he wasn’t happy with how. Whether it was Coors Field, or the much-talked-about baseball that seemed friendly to hitters, Márquez was forced

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander German Márquez ranked high in multiple categories among National League pitchers when the Rockies shut him down in August with right arm inflammation, but he wasn’t happy with how.

Whether it was Coors Field, or the much-talked-about baseball that seemed friendly to hitters, Márquez was forced into an adjustment. At home, he largely pocketed his slider and threw a curveball that was harder and started lower than he wanted.

“My slider grip changed from ’18 to ’19,” Márquez said. “It’s my fingers, they went to the side. On the curveball, I’ve got to be on top to create that angle.”

It worked. Márquez led the NL in innings pitched at 174 when he was shut down for the season on Aug. 22, was tied for fourth in wins with 12 and was ninth in strikeouts with 175. But he wants a discernible difference in velocity between his curve and his slider.

Márquez started the process on Sunday afternoon during his three scoreless innings in the Rockies’ 6-3 victory over the Angels. It’s not quite where he wants it.

Márquez, who said he threw four sliders among his nine breaking pitches, wants his curve to be 81-84 mph and his slider 87-89. But just two breaking pitches went in the 87-89 range, and just one was sub-85. The others ranged 85.8-86.9.

But the positives were he topped 97 mph with his fastball, and in the third inning he successfully mixed in his developing changeup -- one for a swing-and-miss strike, the other for Tommy La Stella’s inning-ending grounder.

“I’ve been working on my fastball and slider, and my changeup was good today,” Márquez said. “I’ve been working on throwing the curve for a strike and as a put-away.”

Even though he was forced into an adjustment that he didn’t particularly like last season, Márquez said it proved to him that he has the savvy necessary to handle a tricky home park.

On July 15, Márquez gave up a career-high 11 runs on 11 hits in 2 2/3 innings against the Giants. After meetings with pitching coach Steve Foster and then-bullpen coach Darren Holmes, Márquez decided to largely pocket the slider for his curve. He could still use it on the road to steal a strike behind in the count, but home was a place to use it sparingly.

But the numbers would paint a confusing picture without knowledge of Márquez’s velocity issue.

Overall, according to Statcast, he dropped the use of his slider from 22.6 percent through July 15 to 16.8 percent after. But at home, readings show 22.9 percent slider usage through July 15 and 20.8 after. But Marquez points out that was because he was throwing his curve way too hard and it was sometimes registering as a slider. “I had one that was 89,” he said, shaking his head.

A pitcher has to do what works.

“We can find a way to win games,” Márquez said. “We just have to make pitches and keep the ball down.”

Rockies manager Bud Black said he liked Márquez’s “mix of pitches, liked the delivery,” on Sunday. As for the velocity separation on his breaking pitches, Black said, “It doesn’t happen overnight, but we’re focusing on it.”

Should Márquez accomplish the technical improvements, he figures he won’t be a Rocky Mountain secret for long.

“That’s my goal, go to the All-Star Game, being a part of that moment,” he said. “I have to keep moving forward.”

Platoon this
Right-handed-hitting Ian Desmond’s splits -- .226/.282/.375 against right-handed pitching, .297/.350/.626 against lefties -- screamed that he should be a platoon player. But on Sunday, he crushed a fastball from Angels righty Jake Thompson for his first hit of the spring, a home run.

“That was good to see. Ian’s got power, it doesn’t matter who [the pitcher] is,” Black said.

Nice option
While Black likes the idea of Charlie Blackmon leading off, he had hit him third in a couple of recent Spring Training games, Sunday included. Blackmon had a two-run double.

“We’re talking about a couple of different things, but we know what Charlie can do from the top,” Black said. “We’re thinking possibly he could be there, or David [Dahl] or [Garrett] Hampson. It’s fluid, depending on who’s in the lineup.”

It was a solid day for the mainstays, with Trevor Story doubling twice and having a diving catch, and Nolan Arenado meeting plate discipline goals by drawing a couple of walks.

Up next
Righty Jon Gray will make his Cactus League debut against the Mariners in Peoria on Monday. Righty Ubaldo Jiménez also is scheduled to pitch. The 1:10 p.m. MT matchup will be available on Gameday Audio.

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.