MESA, Ariz. -- German Marquez was the last of the 2017 Rockies starting pitchers to make his Cactus League debut, but his start Thursday against the Cubs was worth the wait. Marquez threw two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out two in a game that
MESA, Ariz. -- German Marquez was the last of the 2017 Rockies starting pitchers to make his Cactus League debut, but his start Thursday against the Cubs was worth the wait. Marquez threw two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out two in a game that ended in a 2-2 tie.
"I feel good," Marquez said of his performance, singling out his fastball command as a highlight. "I hit the corner [of the plate], and that's what I was looking for."
Marquez's only disappointment was with his velocity, saying he felt like he was at 90 percent but that he wanted to be at 100 percent every start.
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"Sometimes you got to tamp them down a little bit," manager Bud Black said of Marquez's desire to hold nothing back on March 1. "I prefer a guy using his fastball, getting his delivery in order.
"His delivery mechanics looked great. Fastball was located, good slider. Threw some changeups which we've been working on. He's still got to get to the point where he's really comfortable with it, where he can count on it in a game."
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After going 11-7 in 29 starts with the Rockies last year, Marquez enjoys feeling a bit more established as a projected starter, compared to fighting for a rotation spot last spring.
"Last year I was battling with [Antonio Senzatela] and [Kyle Freeland]," Marquez said. "This year I feel more comfortable, and I'm just doing my thing."
Rockies outfielder Sam Hilliard -- Colorado's No. 12 prospect -- tied Thursday's game with a two-run homer in the eighth inning off Daniel Camarena.
Camp battle: Who's on first?
Is Ryan McMahon ready to begin the season in the big leagues? The Rockies appear to be progressing with McMahon as their Plan A at first base, which means Ian Desmond would be the likely left fielder.
A potential Plan B puts Desmond at first and one of those competing for the fourth-outfielder spot -- most prominently David Dahl and Raimel Tapia -- winning a starting role in left.
"Ryan's challenge is to continue to have good at-bats and play hard," Black said. "Make plays at first that you should make. He's being critically evaluated. So far, he's done a nice job."
If McMahon is in limbo, then Desmond -- a high-profile free-agent pickup before last season -- is right next to him. An All-Star shortstop with the Nationals in 2012 and an All-Star outfielder with the Rangers in '16, Desmond was slotted to be the Rockies' everyday first baseman until a hand injury sidelined him last spring, and Mark Reynolds won the bulk of the playing time.
Desmond ended up starting 64 games in left field last year, 22 at first, and one each in center and at short. He's made two Cactus League starts through Thursday, both at first.
"It's tough, no doubt about it," Black said of Desmond's uncertainty about his role. "That's where the mental strength of a player comes into play. In Spring Training, his attention has to be divided a little bit. But I think at the end of all this, Ian knows who he is. He knows his game, and that's a big part of the reason why he signed here and why we signed him -- that versatility and the way that relates to the team. He's a team guy. Ian just wants to win. He's on board."
Right-handed reliever Carlos Estevez is moving forward after being slowed by a tweak to a midsection muscle on his left side.
"Getting better, making strides," Black said Thursday. "He's going to play catch today, which is a step in the right direction. He's making progress."
Time change for Cactus League finale
The Rockies' final game of the Cactus League season is March 27 at Salt River Fields against the Mariners. The time of the game has been moved up an hour to 12:10 p.m. MST. The last game in Arizona generally has an early start time to accommodate teams as they leave the state after the game.
The Mariners will be heading home to Seattle to host the Indians on Opening Day, while the Rockies remain in Arizona to open their season against the D-backs on March 29.
The Rockies host the D-backs on Friday at 1:10 p.m. MT, marking the fourth time they have played in eight days of Cactus League action. Right-hander Chad Bettis makes his second start for the Rockies, and Senzatela will be among those backing him up.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.