- The Washington Times - Friday, February 26, 2010

VIERA, Fla. | Good luck getting Jason Marquis, the new anchor of the Washington Nationals’ rotation, to lay out any personal expectations — much less reasonable ones — for 2010.

“I don’t come into the season saying I want to be 16-9 with a 3.70 (ERA) in 218 innings because then you limit yourself,” Marquis said. “Why not come in and be 34-0 and throw 370 innings and throw a complete game every day?”

There’s nothing like setting the bar high, right?

“Has it ever been done? No,” Marquis said. “But that’s the mindset I have, because if you do reach those numbers, what do you do? Just rest on them?”

Marquis’ history and the Nationals’ need for a steadying influence atop their starting five intersected neatly this winter, and the right-hander signed a two-year, $15 million contract to both solidify the rotation and tutor the young pitchers trying to crack Washington’s staff.

“I’ve been in young guys’ shoes before,” Marquis said. “Sometimes to have a veteran guy around, or a few veteran guys around, it really helps — not just with on-the-field stuff but with off-the-field stuff, too. If there’s some questions they might want answered but maybe they’re a little tentative to go to the front office or coaches and ask, I’m here.”

The Nationals, who lost 103 games last year, also need production and innings from the 31-year-old Marquis. The 10-year-veteran went 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA in 33 starts for Colorado last year, the sixth straight season he’s reached double digits in victories. He’s never started fewer than 29 games in that span, and has exceeded 200 innings three times.

He got started with Atlanta, learning from Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. He has pitched in the playoffs five times, reaching the World Series with St. Louis in 2006. The only question surrounding Marquis’ arrival in Washington was how he would function being a No. 1 starter, a role he’s never held before.

“His No. 1 priority is to just pitch, go out there and pitch like he can and other guys can feed off of that and watch what he does,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. “He’s a very knowledgeable guy and we’re really going to use him a lot in game-planning how to pitch to some of the opposing hitters.”

If you think Marquis will put a pitcher’s spin on how hitters approach batting leadoff — that he only leads off once a game — think again.

“The day you pitch is the day you’re the No. 1 starter. … Here, when I’m pitching, I’m the No. 1 that day,” he said. “When John Lannan is pitching, he’s the No. 1 that day. When you take that mentality, you take the ball when you step on the mound and you’re the No. 1 guy because there is no other guy.”

Riggleman is counting on Marquis to share his knowledge with Lannan, a 25-year-old who was the staff ace last year. General manager Mike Rizzo hopes the other young pitchers at spring training pay attention, too — guys from guys such as top prospect Stephen Strasburg to rotation competitors J.D. Martin and Craig Stammen to Jordan Zimmermann, who is recovering from ligament-replacement surgery.

“My hope, the club’s hope and Jason’s hope is that some day we can say he’s the third-best pitcher on the team or the fourth-best pitcher on the team. If he’s your third starter or your fourth starter, you’ve got one heck of a starting rotation,” Rizzo said.

Being a teacher is a role Marquis thinks he will relish.

“Whether I do it verbally or quietly, they can see maybe how I go about my business, see maybe the little things I do. If they have questions, I’m here to answer them also. I try to bring a positive attitude — no negativity,” he said. “I’m a big believer in trying to prove the believers right instead of trying to prove the doubters wrong. I (don’t) try to waste negative energy on people who never believed you in the first place. Why? I just try to bring a positive attitude.”

Notes: Riggleman, Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten spoke to the Nationals before Friday’s first full-squad workout of the spring. “Our expectation is to win. The players need to focus to win, prepare to win and expect to win. … We’re all tired of losing, we’re all tired of talking about 100-loss seasons and No. 1 picks,” Rizzo said. … RHP Livan Hernandez threw a bullpen session on his first day in camp. “The arm, the shoulder feel great. The mechanics are not 100 percent yet,” said Hernandez, who is competing for one of the final rotation spots. … The Nationals signed RHP Rafael Martin, who pitched last year for Saltillo of the Mexican League, where he was 6-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 54 games. The 25-year-old Martin reported to Washington’s minor league camp Friday.

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