Minor League Report: Jeff Marquez
Righty closing in on Majors after breakout season at Double-A
TAMPA, Fla. -- When Jeff Marquez joined the Staten Island Yankees late in the 2004 season, his manager was Tommy John -- the former big league pitcher, of course, not the surgical procedure that saved John's career and has gained much notoriety.
Marquez's pitching coach with those Baby Bombers was another former Yankees hurler: Dave Eiland, currently the Yankees' pitching coach. In big league camp for the first time this spring, the 23-year-old Marquez was able to reunite with his old coach.
Both have come a long way since the New York-Penn League.
"I've known him a good while, and he can definitely help me," Marquez said of Eiland. "You can always improve. He taught me stuff back then, and he can hopefully continue to teach me things when I get to the big leagues."
For Marquez, it is a matter of when, not if. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander excelled last season for Double-A Trenton, going 15-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 27 starts. He led the Eastern League in victories, ranked second in innings pitched (155 1/3) and placed 10th in ERA.
Featuring a sinking two-seam fastball, a power changeup and a developing curveball, Marquez said he is ready to tackle Triple-A lineups for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year. From there, it may be just a short jump to New York, whether the Yankees need a spot starter to fill in or a long reliever to soak up innings out of the bullpen.
"I'm right there -- I think I'm close," Marquez said. "I'm definitely just waiting for that opportunity, and once I get that opportunity, I've got to take it and run with it."
Marquez was reassigned to Minor League camp on Sunday, along with fellow pitchers Alan Horne and Chase Wright, after appearing in just one Grapefruit League game.
But Marquez was also able to soak up valuable experience in the bullpens and intrasquad action, as well as a better understanding of what life in the big league clubhouse is all about.
"It's been awesome," Marquez said. "It's definitely a lot different than being across the street [with the Minor Leaguers]. I'd definitely rather be [in the big leagues]. It's just cool to be able to hang out with all of the guys. They're all really genuinely good guys."
Marquez also made a friend of Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa. Marquez played winter ball in Hawaii and picked up a little bit of Japanese, so he and Igawa were able to converse during camp.
"Every day, he and I talked a little bit in Japanese," Marquez said. "We just got to know each other a little better. He's a real nice guy, and we always play a little game -- rock, paper, scissors. It's kind of like routine now."
Big target: It's difficult not to notice Andrew Brackman, all 6-foot-10 of him, roaming the Yankees' clubhouse. His Spring Training locker was also placed at the entrance doorway, which makes him extremely accessible to anyone passing through.
Some combination of those characteristics led to some increasingly impressive pranks on the 22-year-old right-hander, who is rehabbing from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
Pitchers Brian Bruney and LaTroy Hawkins are believed to be responsible for slicing Brackman's underwear, cap and shoelaces earlier this week, forcing the rookie to replace all of his personal gear. Brackman's vehicle has also periodically disappeared from the Yankees' parking lot, and at least once, his car keys have been frozen in ice.
"They say you can't fire back, because if you do, they'll just get you harder next time," said Brackman, who was drafted out of North Carolina State and signed a $4.5 million deal with New York. "So I'm waiting. Maybe the last day of camp, I'll get them really good. Wait and see."
High praise: Two of the players manager Joe Girardi was highest on this spring also possessed the highest numbers in camp. Outfielders Colin Curtis (No. 93) and Greg Porter (No. 96) have impressed, even though neither will break camp with the team.
Curtis, 23, had two hits in six Grapefruit League at-bats before being reassigned. He played last year at Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Porter, 27, has five hits in 15 at-bats, including a home run and four RBIs -- all on a grand slam against the Reds in Sarasota, Fla., on March 6.
That morning, Porter had put on a power display in batting practice, golfing one ball off home plate and clipping an ambulance parked beyond the right-field wall. The pitcher? Girardi.
On the pine: Catcher Francisco Cervelli will miss up to 10 weeks after having surgery to repair his fractured right wrist on Wednesday in New York. ... Brackman continues to progress through his rehab from ligament replacement surgery on his throwing arm, but he is still a season removed from actual competition. ... Humberto Sanchez is a bit further along in his recovery from the same surgery, and the right-hander is slated to begin working off a mound on March 29.
First-rounders: Eric Duncan, drafted in 2003, was reassigned to Minor League camp early because of the Yankees' glut of first basemen. ... Phil Hughes, drafted in 2004, has thrown five hitless innings in two Grapefruit League games. He is tagged for the Yankees' starting rotation. ... C.J. Henry, drafted in 2005, is back in the Yankees' Minor League system after being dealt to the Phillies in the Bobby Abreu trade. The club believes Henry can rebound after correcting vision problems that hampered him with Philadelphia. ... Joba Chamberlain, drafted in 2006, is preparing as a starting pitcher during Spring Training and could either start or relieve for New York this year. He has allowed two runs and four hits in 4 2/3 Grapefruit League innings, walking one and striking out two. ... Ian Kennedy, also drafted in 2006, has a very good chance of breaking camp in the Yankees' rotation, though he could open at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He has allowed one run and five hits in six innings, walking one.
Class of '07: Behind Brackman, catcher Austin Romine was in big league camp with the Yankees, helping out with bullpen sessions and the like. A second-round Draft pick out of high school, the 19-year-old Romine was reassigned to Minor League camp on March 1.
What they're saying: "I think it's uncalled for. It's Spring Training. You get people hurt, and that's what we've got -- we've got Cervelli hurt. I'm all for playing hard, but I don't think it's the time when you run over a catcher in Spring Training." -- Girardi, on Cervelli's injury on Saturday during a home-plate collision
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.