Marcum in Mix for Fifth Spot
Bob Toth | On 23, Feb 2014
The Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season with new expectations despite many questions. The Indians’ 25-man roster will look different than the group that won 92 games and lost the American League Wild Card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. While the roster may change and the expectations grow, Cleveland will need to answer many questions this spring before opening the season in Oakland on March 31. Today, we look at one of the Indians’ new players who will be trying to fill a role on the Tribe’s roster.
Veteran pitcher Shaun Marcum joins newly signed Aaron Harang and returning roster options Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, and Trevor Bauer as potential candidates in a spring training competition for the starting rotation void.
Marcum signed with Cleveland on a minor league contract in December with a non-roster invitation to Spring Training. His situation is different than several above-mentioned pitchers in that he is still not all that far removed from an intensive surgery done last season.
Marcum appeared in 14 games for the New York Mets in 2013 before ending his season prematurely in July. He was 1-10 in those starts with a 5.29 ERA.
He started the season on the disabled list with a pinched nerve in his neck, but made his debut on April 27 in a loss to Philadelphia. He was tagged with losses in nine of his first eleven appearances, including a pair of losing relief efforts in extra inning ball games.
On June 26 against the White Sox, he made his best start of the season and earned his only win, holding Chicago to four hits and two walks in eight shutout innings.
Throughout the season, he dealt with a plethora of uncomfortable symptoms, including stinging in his neck, numbness and coldness in his hand during starts, and a general weakness in the right shoulder.
After his final start on July 6, he had a procedure done to address thoracic outlet syndrome. The surgery involved removing his first rib, scar tissue, and two muscles in his neck. He missed the remainder of the season while rehabbing from the surgery.
The Indians have made it clear to Marcum that making the Opening Day roster does not have to be the ultimate goal and that he could still make the club and contribute while slowing down his work load.
He threw his first bullpen session on February 18. The time on the mound consisted of 25 pitches, only fastballs and changeups, as he works his way towards the season.
Marcum acknowledged that the Indians had slowed down his throwing program and that he believed it to be a good decision because he was eager to challenge for the open spot in the starting rotation.
Marcum’s contract is an incentive-laden deal and does feature an opt-out clause if he does not make the Indians’ roster out of spring training. He is scheduled to earn $1 million if he makes the team with an additional $3 million possible through performance incentives.
Marcum, who turned 32 in December, has had success throughout his Major League career.
He was drafted in the third round of the 2003 draft and debuted with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2005, appearing in five games in relief.
The next season, he was up and down with Toronto and their Triple-A minor league affiliate in the first two months of the season while working as a reliever in three games. He was recalled at the end of June and was used four more times in relief until the club put him in to the starting rotation. He ended the season 3-4 with a 5.06 ERA in 21 games, including a 4.72 ERA in his 14 starts.
Marcum was on the roster to start the 2007 season and made 13 appearances in relief to start the year. He was 1-2 in those outings with a 6.06 ERA, but was again inserted into the starting rotation. In 25 starts, he went 11-4 with a 3.91 ERA and limited opposing hitters to a .248 batting average.
He started 2008 in the Blue Jays rotation and began the season 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA and .198 batting average allowed in his first 15 starts before being shut down for a month in mid-June. He was not nearly as effective upon his return, when he had a 4.78 ERA and allowed a .266 batting average against despite posting a 4-3 record. Inconsistencies helped lead to his brief demotion to Triple-A after his August 22nd start.
His home run rate and walk rate both increased after returning from injury while his strikeout rate fell 5.5%. He allowed nearly as many runs (29) in his final ten starts as he allowed in his first 15 (31). He ended his season early after his final start on September 16th, when he made 52 pitches over two-plus innings of work and left with right elbow pain. Toronto announced three days later that Marcum would need Tommy John surgery.
Outside of some minor league rehab starts, Marcum missed the 2009 season. He was the Jays’ Opening Day starter for 2010 and put together a full and healthy season. He made 31 starts throughout the season and had a 13-8 record with a 3.64 ERA in 195 1/3 innings, easily a career best. In just three starts did he fail to complete five innings on the mound.
He threw a complete game one-hit gem in Oakland on August 16, allowing just a leadoff solo home run to Conor Jackson in the bottom of the seventh. He walked one and struck out five in the game.
Following the season, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for second base prospect Brett Lawrie in a top-starter-for-top-prospect swap. He was 13-7 with a 3.54 ERA for the Brewers in his first venture into the National League. He topped the 200 inning mark for the first time in his career and was part of the Milwaukee playoff rotation. He was 0-3 with a 14.90 ERA in the only postseason of his career and was shelled for seven runs against Arizona in the NLDS and for nine runs in two games against St. Louis in the NLCS.
Marcum’s second year in Milwaukee was shortened again by injury, as he missed ten weeks beginning in the middle of June with right elbow tightness and shoulder issues. He left his second game back with a right calf cramp, but did not miss any more starts. He finished the season strong, allowing five runs in his final 18 innings while earning a pair of wins to give him a 7-4 record in 21 games with a 3.70 ERA.
He signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the New York Mets prior to last season with another $4 million possible in incentives.
Marcum is a soft-tossing righty, more resembling a left-hander at times on the mound. He does not have an overpowering fastball, but he has a great changeup and has an arsenal of other pitches he will use to compensate for his lack of velocity. He is a fly ball pitcher and can be prone to the long ball, but he has shown periods of success that get lost in his injury history.
He has a good track record against the American League Central, with the exception of the Indians (1-3, 4.54 ERA). Against the remaining four teams, he has a combined 11-3 record in 27 games (21 starts) with a 2.61 ERA.
Marcum has plenty of competition in camp with the Indians, but he also has plenty of motivation to get into shape. If he becomes a nonfactor for the fifth spot in the Cleveland rotation, he will use his spring efforts to bolster his chances of finding another starting opportunity around the league.
Photo: Jordan Bastian/MLB.com