On The Marks Right Now In Kane County

GENEVA, IL - The 2010 season began as a nightmare for Kane County left-hander Justin Marks, who saw his ERA balloon near 10. The southpaw has turned it around of late, however, and those improvements were on display on Thursday when he struck-out 10 and tossed six scoreless innings. As Chris Emma explains, it's all about frame of mind for Marks.

As the season has progressed, Justin Marks has continued to improve and he was virtually unhittable on Thursday. The 2009 third round pick struck out 10 South Bend Silver Hawks, and earned his third win of the season.

The former standout at University of Louisville entered Thursday with a 2-10 record and a 5.30 ERA. However, his pitching hasn't been as poor as his numbers would suggest. Over his last four starts, Marks has struck out 36 batters in 23 innings. On the season, Marks has 108 strikeouts, which ranks him third in the Midwest League.

During the worst part of his struggles, Marks spent time working closely with Cougars pitching coach Jimmy Escalante. Marks' biggest problem has been his lack of confidence on the mound, but that is a problem no longer.

"I feel like I'm trusting my pitches a lot more and getting out of those big innings," Marks said after his third victory of the season. "Early on, those innings were just getting to me."

During the early part of Marks's season, his teammates were in a terrible offensive slump, and there were major problems in the field. Now, the Cougars' bats are red hot, and Marks has all the confidence he needs to be successful.

"When you get some run support and you know your defense is behind you and your offense is behind you, it lets you relax a lot more," Marks said.

"You throw the ball more freely, and I definitely trusted my stuff a lot more today."

Another adjustment Marks has made is in his approach on the mound. Marks lost confidence in himself, but he also wasn't throwing the right pitches. His confidence in his three pitches was lost, and his normally dominating mound presence was gone. Marks has come a long way since his struggles.

"He's certainly made improvements," Cougars manager Aaron Nieckula said after the win.

"Minor League Baseball is first and foremost about player development, and he's developed as a pitcher. He's working the zone with three pitches. He's starting to utilize his fastball a little bit more, so he's a little more aggressive, he's got a nice mound presence. He seems to have a nice mentality in pressure situations that arise throughout the game. He seems to handle himself very well."

Marks' adjustments are obvious while on the mound, and the stats have come along with the new approach. In those last three starts, Marks has allowed just four earned runs, while striking out 29 batters in 17.2 innings. Despite his great stats, Marks is keeping it all in perspective.

"I'm not looking to punch out 10 guys every single game, but if I can put up six zeroes, that's what I'm looking to do," Marks said.

After another great outing, the future looks bright for the highly-touted prospect. His struggles appear to be in the past, Marks is confident and ready to continue on his journey toward the majors.

"He's experience and tasted success at the college level, playing at a good program," Nieckula said.

"This is the guy that the A's expected him to be. He's matured and come around. There's still a long way to go, but he certainly has gotten better and his ERA has gone down."

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