Marks Looking To Right The Ship

CEDAR RAPIDS - It has been anything but smooth-sailing for Justin Marks during the first year of his professional baseball career. The Louisville alum is determined to get things back on track, however. Bill Seals takes a closer look at the Kane County left-hander inside...

Oakland's second overall pick in the 2010 draft, third-rounder Justin Marks is not one to run away from his problems. The left-handed starter has had a multitude of them in his first year as a professional after capping a tremendous three-year collegiate career in the Big East at Louisville.

First there was a disastrous debut outing in the Arizona Rookie League last summer when he gave up six earned runs on four walks and three hits without retiring a batter. Then came the diagnosis that led to groin surgery and an end to his 2009 season.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder is finally back on the mound and pitching, but still hasn't found his comfort zone five games into his 2010 season at Low-A Kane County.

Marks is very matter-of-fact in his assessment of himself.

"I definitely haven't started out the way I wanted and my numbers aren't there," said the 93rd overall pick in last year's amateur draft.

"The good thing is it's more developmental. I'm working on a lot of things. I came off surgery last year and hadn't thrown off a mound to live hitters in seven months.

"Spring training was really good for me. I feel like I've had to learn to pitch again, just because I'm working on so many things. I don't want to be the guy that blames his problems on the fact he's working on things, but it's not that at all. I haven't found it yet."

There have been few positives thus far for Marks, who has compiled an 0-3 record with a 9.13 ERA. He is striking out nearly one batter per frame, but has walked 16 in 22.2 innings. He finally completed six innings and walked just one batter in a Monday start at Cedar Rapids, but still surrendered five earned runs on eight hits to take the loss.

As in the old clichés, Marks truly is taking it one step at a time and focusing on the little things during his time on the mound.

"Everybody always says you don't want to be working on it in a game," he said.

"But where else can I work on it? I'm trying to implement it all in a game. There are too many walks right now. I'm not getting hit too hard, just here and there. I'm not going to come out and shove for nine innings and strike out 12 guys. I'm not pushing it and worried about this or that. The coaching staff has been great working with me on some mechanical issues."

Marks says those mechanical issues have led to a loss of the command that helped make him the Big East pitcher of the year with Louisville in 2009.

"It's all about location and going after hitters," he said. "I need to get out there and start pounding the zone. The velocity is there, 89-to-90 which is fine right now."

Even while he was capping off a stellar three-year run in college, Marks had a feeling that trouble was on the horizon. While he could still get batters out in college with a sore groin, that wasn't going to be enough to succeed at the next level.

A disastrous first start in Phoenix was enough for the A's to take a closer look at his health.

"We always kind of knew something funky was going on down there," Marks said.

"After I pitched it was real inflamed down there. We had pretty good MRIs from Louisville that the A's knew about. It wasn't really a big deal until we looked into it and realized it was getting worse. They wanted to get it knocked out and fixed now. I appreciate them doing that and getting me healthy before I came back out here."

But now Marks is dealing with the frustrations of being behind his other classmates in the developmental period. Instead of keeping Marks in extended spring training and then shipping him to Vancouver, the A's opted instead to send him to a full-season league.

Marks appreciates the confidence Oakland's brass has in him and is looking forward to getting back on the right track.

"It wasn't the ideal situation last year," he said.

"I got drafted and they were probably expecting a lot of things. Now it's about being able to get on the mound and feel comfortable. I haven't pitched very well lately and need to get back on my feet. I need to get the club to have some trust in me."

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