Often times, teams will use the Arizona Fall League to give a pitcher who missed some time during the regular season a chance to catch up on lost innings. Kansas City is doing that with Justin Marks this year, and he's been taking full advantage of it.
The left-hander, making his fourth Fall League start Friday, yielded a run on four hits and a walk while striking out four over four innings to lead Surprise in a 6-1 win over Phoenix. The win moved Marks to 3-0 and brought his ERA to 2.19 for the AFL season.
The 24-year-old missed time during the regular season after he was hit in the head by a comebacker, fracturing his right orbital bone. The injury didn't require surgery, but he was held out for a month and a half as a precautionary measure.
He said he was glad, as much as anything else, to use the extra work in the AFL to add to his innings count.
"I had the incident during the season, had to sit out. Just a freak accident and it set me back a little bit," he said. "I only ended the year with 90-something innings, which isn't a huge deal, but being a starter I didn't have the 130 or 140 innings. I'm 24 years old, been pitching for a while [with that kind of workload], so I think they wanted to see me at this level with these experienced hitters, getting a few more innings in."
Marks was a Texas League All-Star this season, putting together a 3.80 ERA in 85 1/3 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas with 73 strikeouts against 38 walks. He finished with a 4.50 ERA overall in 92 innings across three levels, including one start after a promotion to Triple-A Omaha.
It was a strong followup to a nice 2011 for the Louisville University product. He went 8-8 with a 3.98 ERA last season with Class A Advanced Wilmington, striking out 140 and walking 49 in 144 2/3 innings. In 2010 he posted a 4.87 ERA in 129 1/3 innings.
Marks credited the development he's made over the past couple of seasons to a more aggressive approach he embraced after he was traded from Oakland to Kansas City along with Vin Mazzaro for David Dejesus in November 2010.
It's also the approach he said he's wanted to refine facing the advanced offensive prospects that populate the AFL.
"You come to the Fall League facing really talented hitters, and the big thing for me is attacking these hitters," he said. "Not putting myself in a hole, really getting after them with the fastball, attacking the zone. That's the key for me with this Fall League experience.
"There's good things to take out of it and things to learn, and I've been fortunate to have four decent starts."
In his four outings, Marks has struck out 10 and walked five in 12 1/3 frames.
On Friday outfielder Brian Fletcher, the Royals' No. 17 prospect, provided a two-run homer for the Saguaros, his first of the AFL season. Fourth-ranked Red Sox prospect Bryce Brentz also chipped in two RBIs and leadoff man Whit Merrifield, another Royals outfielder, went 2-for-4 with a double, a walk and a run scored.
Athletics catcher Max Stassi went 1-for-3 with a double, driving in the Desert Dogs' lone run. Brewers No. 9 prospect Jimmy Nelson allowed three runs on four hits and a walk, fanning four over two innings to take the loss.
Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MLB.com.