Marquez has mind on family as deal announced

Pitcher secures future in Colorado as loved ones stay in Venezuela

April 6th, 2019

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander ’s first two starts were before sparse crowds in Miami and Tampa Bay. More fans are expected when he faces the Braves at Coors Field on Tuesday. But his heart is with a packed house back home in San Felix, Venezuela.

Marquez’s girlfriend, Diluanny Amundarain, and their nearly 9-month-old son, Damian (nicknamed “Easy Cheese,” after daddy’s fastball), and friends such as Andres Gonzalez, a former professional pitcher who helps him in the offseason, and many others gather at a friend’s house for each start.

“It’s 18 people -- they have a video game projector, so the game covers a wall,” Marquez said, smiling.

The inspiration of his family and friends was a key reason that Marquez signed a five-year, $43 million contract, which went official on Saturday. The commitment to the Rockies covers all of his arbitration years and what would have been the first year of free agency. Additionally, there is a 2024 option, and escalator clauses tied to winning or finishing strong in Cy Young Award voting.

Marquez, 24, set a Rockies record last season with 230 strikeouts. On Saturday, he received his first Louisville Silver Slugger Award as last year’s best offensive pitcher in the National League.

With his career off to a strong start, Marquez committed to the Rockies in the name of taking care of his family and staying with his teammates over potential for even more money on the open market. He joined third baseman Nolan Arenado (eight years, $260 million) and outfielder Charlie Blackmon (six years, $108 million) as players who committed to the Rockies over free agency.

With the uncertain political situation in Venezuela and that country’s dicey at-best relationship with the current US administration, Marquez’s girlfriend and baby have not been able to visit him in Denver. So Marquez smiled with his son and gave his girlfriend FaceTime updates.

“I just FaceTime with them, and I told her that I had this,” said Marquez, who added that he hopes there could be a breakthrough that would allow his loved ones into the country soon. “She was, like, ‘Do whatever you want to do.’ They’re my family, and they’re happy about it. I want to take care of them. Everyone is super happy.”

Marquez, 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in two starts, broke in during the 2016 season and is 27-19 with a 4.00 ERA. All but three of his 406 career strikeouts have been as a starter. His last start – when he fanned seven in seven innings a no-decision in a 1-0, 11-inning Rockies win at Tampa Bay – came in his 67th start, which made him the fastest starter in Rockies history to reach the 400 milestone.

The Rockies acquired Marquez in January 2016, along with lefty reliever Jake McGee, from the Rays while sending away outfielder Corey Dickerson and Minor League infielder Kevin Padlo.

“For the past few years, he’s earned respect inside of these walls and outside of these walls throughout the league in terms of who he is, in terms of who he has become as a Major League pitcher,” Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. “It’s exciting that in a big decision like this, that he chose Denver as the place he wanted to be and the organization that he felt right to him. It was some place he wanted to consider home for the next five or six years of his career.”

Marquez brings a firm fastball and a biting slider, and he’s attempting to hone his changeup into a third pitch to help baffle hitters, as well as overpower them. But catcher Tony Wolters, who has developed a consistent relationship with Marquez, said the talks about his family back home are even more special than their discussions of scouting reports and strategies.

“It’s very emotional,” said Wolters, who attended the official announcement with several teammates, coaches and front-office members. “He takes care of a lot of people. Family is important.

“He’s very athletic. His body has a lot of miles in it. He’s very athletic, a workhorse. I truly believe he’s going to have a super-long career. I’m proud of him. He’s such a good person to everyone. And everyone has his back.”

Pitching coach Steve Foster, who calls Marquez El Puma for his athletic ability, said: “He’s a grateful person. When you’re grateful, your perspective is ‘we,’ and not ‘me.’”