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Rockies tab Márquez as Opening Day starter

Gray (Saturday) and Freeland (Sunday) to follow vs. Rangers
@harding_at_mlb
July 20, 2020

DENVER -- Check off one goal for Rockies right-hander German Márquez. Rockies manager Bud Black announced Monday that Márquez will start the season opener on Friday night at Texas at 6:05 p.m. MT (AT&T SportsNet). It’s the first season opener for Marquez, who is coming off a solid 2019 and

DENVER -- Check off one goal for Rockies right-hander German Márquez.

Rockies manager Bud Black announced Monday that Márquez will start the season opener on Friday night at Texas at 6:05 p.m. MT (AT&T SportsNet). It’s the first season opener for Marquez, who is coming off a solid 2019 and hopes to establish himself as one of the top pitchers in the National League.

“It’s a goal that I set the first time when I got to the big leagues – I have to do Opening Day, I have to go to the All-Star Game, win a Cy Young,” Márquez said. “So that’s one of my goals. It’s pretty amazing how I feel.”

Márquez will square off against right-hander Lance Lynn in not only the opener of the pandemic-delayed 60-game schedule, but the first regular-season game at the Rangers’ new Globe Life Field in Arlington.

Last season, Márquez (12-5, 4.76 ERA in 28 starts) was leading the NL at 174 innings pitched, tied for fifth in wins with 12 and ninth in strikeouts with 175 when the Rockies shut him down with right arm inflammation on Aug. 26.

The solid stats were obscured by the club's 71-91 record, but they were a continuation of a career that’s gaining notice by those in the game. In fact, over the past three seasons -- the first two of which saw the Rockies qualify for the postseason -- Marquez, 25, is in the top eight in the NL in strikeouts (522, seventh), starts (90, seventh), innings (532, eighth), wins (37, eighth) and winning percentage (.617, 10th).

Oft overlooked, Márquez could turn heads in '20

Márquez turned in two of the Rockies’ best starts last April. He had a one-hit shutout on April 14 at San Francisco, when he didn’t yield a hit until one out in the eighth; and he took a perfect game into the sixth inning at Milwaukee on April 30.

He was the first pitcher in Rockies history to be perfect for at least five innings, and the first pitcher in baseball to have two such games in one month since Max Scherzer in June 2015 (per Elias Sports Bureau). Márquez also snapped three of the Rockies’ four losing streaks of five or more games, compiling a 1.88 ERA in those starts.

Márquez went 64 pitches in his last intrasquad game on Saturday night, and he hopes to stretch what figures to be a 75-pitch outing on Opening Day over “five, six or seven innings.”

Black also announced the other two starters for the series in Texas -- righty Jon Gray on Saturday at 2:05 p.m., and lefty Kyle Freeland on Sunday at 12:35 p.m. Gray was the Opening Day starter in 2017 and '18, and Freeland opened 2019.

Black held off on announcing the rest of the rotation, although righty Antonio Senzatela figures to be the fourth starter. He's scheduled to pitch in an exhibition game at Texas on Wednesday, which puts him at five days of rest when the Rockies open a two-game series at Oakland on July 28. Black said right-handed starter/bullpen candidates Chi Chi González and Jeff Hoffman have made the team, but didn’t specify their roles. How the first three games go could help determine if their first appearances will come out of the bullpen or in starts.

Márquez called Friday’s Opening Day start “the first of many.” He has never faced the Rangers in the regular season, but he has several times in Spring Training, and he plans to study those videos.

A power pitcher who uses a fastball low in the zone and offsets it with a slider and a curveball, Márquez has been developing a changeup that would give him arm-side location and velocity separation. In his most recent intrasquad start on Saturday night at Coors Field, he went 64 pitches over four innings, and his curveball and slider were sharp over the last two, when he struck out four of the final six batters he faced.

“I feel almost there,” Márquez said. “My slider is a lot better, it makes my curveball much better. And the changeup that time was really good. I’ve been focused on my changeup.”

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.