Sean Marshall has a lot going for him in the race for the 5th spot in the Chicago Cubs starting rotation. He has logged 50 major league starts in his 3 years in the big leagues and continues to improve on his numbers each and every season. In 2006, Marshall made 24 starts, and finished the season with a 6-9 record and a high ERA of 5.59. In 2007, Marshall made huge strides – in 19 starts, he finished with a 7-8 record and lowered his ERA all the way to 3.92. A big key of his success was walking less batters – 25 less batters than he did the year before. In 2008, Marshall was all over the place – bullpen, starting rotation (7 starts) and back at Triple-A Iowa. Despite all the change, Marshall pitched 65 innings, went 3-5, and lowered his ERA to 3.86 with a 1.27 WHIP. Most importantly, he never once complained. Cubs Manager Lou Pinella summed it up well: “He did what the organization wanted, and he’s improved. He’s gotten stronger. He’s got a good feel for pitching. I’d feel extremely comfortable with him in the fifth spot. I would think with him coming into this camp that our starting pitching is in pretty darn good shape, assuming everybody stays healthy.”
Marshall would join a rotation already laden with talent – Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Rich Harden. Pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Chad Gaudin and Aaron Heilman are also expected to compete for the 5th spot in the rotation, so it won’t be easy for Marshall. He put extra time in this off-season in the Phoenix area, and learned a lot from situations that Pinella put him in during the 2008 MLB season to test his mettle. Marshall felt like he passed those difficult tests and so did Pinella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Marshall also has the right attitude: “I’d rather start. But anything I can do to help the team win some games and give the team some good innings and put some zeros on the board, whether it’s in the bullpen or starting or coming in and getting a couple lefties out or getting a base hit, I’m ready to go.”
Gotta love the optimism and the “team first” attitude. We don’t get to see or hear that a lot these days, so we need to publicize it more to let people know that there are players out there who aren’t in it just for the money or glory. Good luck to you Sean. Whether you end up as a starter or in the bullpen, we’re glad you’re a Cub!