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Price: Marquis' status 'reasonable question'

Special to MLB.com @m_sheldon

KANSAS CITY -- Veteran Reds right-hander Jason Marquis was a feel-good story coming out of Spring Training, but those pleasant vibes have been waning in recent days.

For a second consecutive start, Marquis was unable to give the Reds four full innings, and Cincinnati ultimately fell, 7-1, to the Royals on Wednesday.

Full Game Coverage

KANSAS CITY -- Veteran Reds right-hander Jason Marquis was a feel-good story coming out of Spring Training, but those pleasant vibes have been waning in recent days.

For a second consecutive start, Marquis was unable to give the Reds four full innings, and Cincinnati ultimately fell, 7-1, to the Royals on Wednesday.

Full Game Coverage

Marquis was lifted after throwing just 64 pitches through 3 2/3 innings. He allowed four hits and four runs as his ERA climbed to 6.91. Manager Bryan Price cited the lack of a put-away pitch as a problem for Marquis, and the manager was subsequently asked how secure Marquis' spot in the rotation is at this point.

"Those are tough questions when you are struggling, when you've lost five in a row and during those five games you've had some really poor pitching performances from our starting pitchers," Price said. "The question is a reasonable question. It isn't insensitive or ill-timed."

Price said the Reds are asking veterans such as Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake to eat innings and protect youngsters such as Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias. Marquis would be another veteran that the Reds would like to count on as an innings-eater.

"What Jason provides us is important," Price said. "But it is important also that he performs the way I know he can and the way he did early in the year. We always have to try and put the best team on the field. When he's throwing the way he's capable of throwing, he can be a part of a real good starting rotation."

In fairness to Marquis, it was a defensive mistake by second baseman Brandon Phillips that helped fuel a three-run rally in the fourth inning that put the Royals in firm control. With runners at second and third and nobody out, Phillips had a chance to cut off a run at the plate on Eric Hosmer's hard grounder. But Mike Moustakas didn't break hard off third on contact and Phillips held the ball too long. When Moustakas then decided to go, Phillips lost momentum and threw low and late to the plate.

Video: CIN@KC: Moustakas comes home on a fielder's choice

"He knows that he needs to get rid of that ball sooner," Price said. "You can't take the play back. It happened, and it doesn't happen to him very often."

Marquis then allowed a sacrifice fly to Kendrys Morales and an RBI single by Salvador Perez before being lifted.

"I thought I made some decent pitches tonight," Marquis said. "It's a step in the right direction, but it wasn't good enough. I'll keep working. That's all you can do. ... Dig yourself out of the hole."

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cincinnati Reds, Jason Marquis