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02/28/11 9:30 PM EST
Being under the radar suits Marcum just fine
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- As offseason acquisitions go, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum strike quite a balance for the Brewers. Greinke has the power arsenal but the withdrawn personality. Marcum works with an 87 mph fastball, a sneaky changeup and an outgoing nature that served him well last month at the club's annual fanfest when the Brewers' big offseason acquisitions took the stage together. Marcum did his best impression of a standup comic while Greinke just did his best. "Total opposites," said catcher George Kottaras, who lockers next to Marcum in Spring Training and handled his start against the Giants on Monday. The team hopes its new right-handers are alike this season in one category: wins. "We're not here to pitch at the end of September, we're here to pitch at the end of October," Marcum told fans that day on stage. "I think that's what's going to happen if Zack lives up to his Cy Young abilities."
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He was joking, sort of. The Brewers' hopes in 2011 are certainly tied to Greinke, who cost two potential starting position players and two blue-chip pitching prospects in December.But the club will also count on Marcum, who arrived two weeks earlier in a trade that sent Milwaukee's top positional prospect -- infielder Brett Lawrie -- to Toronto. Marcum and Greinke join incumbents Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson in a retooled starting rotation that could make the Brewers competitive in the National League Central. It was Marcum who took the mound first for the Brewers' highly touted fivesome, starting Monday's exhibition opener against the Giants at Maryvale Baseball Park. He worked with half fastballs and half changeups, retired the first four hitters he faced and then surrendered four consecutive hits and two runs. Marcum declared it a successful debut. "I got accomplished what I needed to get accomplished: Get out there in a competitive mode again," he said. "Everything felt pretty good. I just need to work on locating some of those [fastballs] a little better." He'd missed on some inside fastballs to left-handed hitters in live batting practice sessions last week, so Marcum worked on it Monday. Giants left fielder Travis Ishikawa hammered one such pitch off the center-field wall for a double that sparked San Francisco's rally. "We wanted to work on it," Marcum said, "and it obviously needs more work." Expect similar spurts of self-deprecation as the 29-year-old gets comfortable in his new surroundings. Before December, he'd been a Blue Jay through a professional career that began in 2003, when Toronto made him a third-round Draft pick. Marcum briefly debuted in the big leagues in 2005 and was a full-time starter by 2008, when he suffered an elbow injury that needed Tommy John surgery and cost him all of 2009. He returned strong in 2010, going 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in the tough American League East and working 195 1/3 innings with 20 so-called quality starts and -- most importantly -- no elbow trouble. In most years, Marcum would find himself being touted as the Brewers' big addition. Instead, Greinke is getting all of the attention. Marcum isn't complaining. "There's no need," he said. "I haven't won a Cy Young or anything. I like being under the radar; I've been under the radar my whole life. I have no problem being the guy that's forgotten." Perhaps he's forgotten because he never lights up the radar gun. As a kid, Marcum's favorites included hard-throwing Royals righty Bret Saberhagen -- Marcum grew up near Kansas City -- but also a couple of soft-tossers in Greg Maddux and Brad Radke. He certainly fits that mold. Of the 92 qualifying starting pitchers last season, Marcum's 87.1 mph average fastball ranked 84th, according to the website fangraphs.com. Only three right-handed pitchers worked with less velocity: Dave Bush of the Brewers (86.5 mph), Livan Hernandez of the Nationals (84.3 mph) and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey of the Mets (83.9 mph). "Radar guns usually don't register when I throw anyway," Marcum said last month in Milwaukee. "For me, it's just like those guys [Radke and Maddux]. I'm a location pitcher. I rely on keeping my pitches down in the zone. The days I don't are the days I put my team in a hole." There have been relatively few of those days during his career, considering Marcum owns a sub-4.00 ERA and has held opponents to a .244 average. Onetime Jays teammate Kevin Millar had a theory. "He told me one time that the reason I'm successful is I throw below hitting speed," Marcum said. "I always use that to my advantage." Brewers manager Ron Roenicke remains coy about his plans for the starting rotation, but he said again Monday that he'd like to split left-handers Wolf and Narveson. If that's the case, and if Greinke pitches Opening Day, then Wolf would probably pitch the third game of the season and either Marcum or Gallardo would be pushed to Game 4, the Brewers' April 4 home opener against the Braves. "These guys have been great. They've welcomed me here just as well as Zack and the other guys that have come in," Marcum said. "It's a great atmosphere, and I think the attitude of 'win now,' wanting to win this year, has made it that much easier."