The Washington Times - March 14, 2011, 05:00PM

VIERA, Fla. — Jason Marquis continued to distance himself from a forgettable 2010 with another solid start this spring.

While Marquis allowed his first run of the preseason, it was the lone blemish on an otherwise efficient five-inning performance. The Nationals tied the game at one in the bottom of the fifth to take Marquis off the hook for a one-run loss but the Tigers added three runs in the sixth to take the 4-2 win.


“Hopefully I can give them all up now,” Marquis said of his first earned run allowed. “I feel good about everything. I feel like I’m pounding the bottom of the strike zone…. I’m not thinking east, west, I’m just thinking down with everything — create that downward angle and let my action on the ball take over.”

Throwing 58 pitches — 38 for strikes — Marquis was in control from the start. He needed just seven pitches to get through a first inning where he didn’t throw a single ball and struck out two.

While he didn’t keep that pace going for long, that set the tone for another successful outing. Marquis finished his day after five innings, allowing one run off three hits and two walks with four strikeouts and has now pitched 12 innings this spring, allowing six hits and walking four.

“Five innings and less than 60 pitches, it’s good stuff,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “Marquis is throwing strikes, getting ground balls and letting the pitches work for him so it was a good day.”

“This is what he does,” he added. “This is what Mike (Rizzo) signed that winter (of 2009).”

He’s been so efficient that even with five innings of work, Marquis still had to throw 20 pitches in the bullpen once he left the game. He is averaging just over 10 pitches per inning this spring, throwing 128 total in 12 innings thus far.

“It’s a good and bad thing,” he said. “It’s good because you’re making pitches, you’re executing what you want and you’re putting everything together at the same time — but you also want to get your pitch count up… so pitching in the bullpen after I come out is fine with me, as long as I get my work in.”

A 10-year veteran, Marquis is used to spring training stats getting blown out of proportion. In 2006, when he was with St. Louis, Marquis had a 1.96 ERA in spring training and finished the regular season with 16 losses (and 14 wins), a 6.02 ERA and allowed a league-high 130 earned runs. In 2009, after struggling through spring with a 10.08 ERA for Colorado, Marquis pitched to a 15-13 record with a more respectable 4.04 ERA in the regular season.

“Sometimes spring can give mixed results and is a little overrated at certain times for certain players,” he said when asked if his sterling spring should be a good indicator for the season. “But I always had the mindset that if I struggled early, you don’t want to continue going out there and embarrassing yourself. You want to get that confidence and good mental state of mind going into the season.

“Really, when things have gone bad in spring, those last two starts (before the season), I’ve really had to bear down and get guys out so going into the season I was able to have that fresh mindset that ‘Hey, I can still get guys out.’”