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Washington Nationals' Jason Marquis: Year Two.

Is there any one pitcher on the Nats' staff that you work especially well with?

Wilson Ramos"You know, Jason Marquis. I have a lot of communication with him. He's the only pitcher I have more communication [with]."

Apparently, the feeling is mutual. In a November 2010 post entitled, "30 Players in 30 Days: Wilson Ramos", at Curly-W Live (the Washington Nationals' official blog), Marquis, the 32-year-old veteran of eleven major league seasons praised the 23-year-old catcher saying that Ramos is, "...special back there...He’s definitely got a bright future. Real big target, real soft hands. He’s confident in what he’s doing back there. It makes you a little more confident on the mound. I enjoyed throwing to him."

Marquis said Ramos was, "unbelievable," to work with during an MLB Network Radio interview this past March, telling Inside PItch hosts Casey Stern and Jim Bowden he, "...enjoyed throwing to [Ramos] last year when I was rehabbing in Triple-A and then when I got re-activated and he got called up...

"...sometimes you just have a natural connection with somebody on the mound," Marquis said in explaining the chemistry between the two, "You feel comfortable, he's a big strong guy, gives a great target. You have to get to know a pitcher just to learn how to use your stuff. So that obviously comes with more time and experience and on top of that he's got Pudge [Rodriguez] to learn from and get better also."

Ramos knows Marquis now, "Jason Marquis, he's got pretty good stuff, John Lannan throws pretty good too." 

Lannan, Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) reported on Twitter last week, has, "...has raved about [Ramos'] receiving ability. In 3 2010 starts w/ Ramos, Lannan allowed 8 ER in 17 IP." In both players' 2011 debuts this past Saturday, the one game of the series with the Braves the Nats managed to win, Lannan held the Atlanta's hitters to one run on five hits while Ramos was 3 for 4 with three singles and a K at the plate. 

Lannan's struggles last season led to a trip to Double-A where he worked out his issues, most of which were ultimately mechanical. Marquis too struggled mightily in 2010, the first year of the two-year/$15M dollar deal he signed with Washington in the winter of 2009. Spring Training saw the then-31-year-old right-hander give up 32 hits, 10 walks and 21 ER in 20.2 IP. The former Braves' prospect who's also pitched for the Cardinals, Cubs and Rockies, started the season with his fifth team by giving up 18 hits and 20 runs, 19 earned in three starts and 8.1 IP.

"Loose bodies" were soon discoverd in Marquis' elbow and surgery and rehab sidelined the pitcher until August 2010 when he returned to make 10 starts, going (2-6) and allowing 58 hits in 50.1 innings pitched in which he surrendered 27 runs, (24 ER) and 18 walks (3.22 BB/9) while collecting 28 K's (5.01 K/9). Bill James is projecting 21 starts (4.8 K/9, 3.43 BB/9, 1.03 HR/9) and 105.0 innings pitched from Marquis this season, while Marcel projects 19 starts (5.51 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, 0.89 HR/9) and 111.0 IP and both James and Marcel have Marquis' ERA (6.60 to 4.46 on both) and FIP (5.65 to James' 4.77 and Marcel's 4.30) dropping back toward his career averages (4.56 ERA/4.85 FIP). 

Assistant GM and Vice President of Player Development Bob Boone, in an MLB Network Radio interview of his own this winter, described the pitcher the Nationals have labeled an extreme ground ball pitcher as "bulldog" before predicting that Marquis would get, "back to [being] a little bit more legitimate Jason Marquis here for next year and I think he can surprise a lot of people." Marquis' second Spring with the Nats went a lot better than his first go-round with the now-32-year-old veteran giving up 15 hits, seven runs, all earned and six walks in 15.2 IP in which he struck out nine.

Tonight at 7:10 pm EDT, Marquis gets the first opportunity to show the Nationals they were right to invest $15M in the starter in the Winter of '09. His elbow's fine, he's got Wilson Ramos behind the plate and he has the Nats' improved defense behind him. The "extreme ground ball pitcher by trade" who was brought to the nation's capital by D.C. GM Mike Rizzo to provide stability to the Nationals' rotation, has his first chance to make a second impression on Nats fans who didn't get to see what he was capable of doing last season.