Marshall Named Fourth Starter

Left-hander Sean Marshall has officially been named the Cubs' fourth starter. Inside The Ivy caught up with Marshall Thursday morning and got the news directly from the Cubs pitcher himself.

MESA, Ariz. -- At this time last year, Sean Marshall was just hoping for a place to pitch in the Cubs' organization period. He found one at Class-A Daytona, where he was named to the 2005 Florida State League All-Star Team with a 4-4 record and 4.74 ERA in 12 starts.

Now, Marshall's next regular season start will be at Wrigley Field in Chicago when the Cubs host the St. Louis Cardinals in their home opening series beginning Friday, April 7.

The 23-year-old Marshall was named the Cubs' No. 4 starter to open the year, the left-hander announced Thursday. That means he'll start Saturday, April 8 in game two of the three-game series against the defending Central Division champions.

Marshall appeared to be the front-runner for the starter's job once the Cubs optioned pitchers Angel Guzman and Rich Hill to Triple-A.

Cubs Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild reportedly gave Marshall the news.

"I kind of had a little grin on my face when he told me," Marshall said Thursday morning. "Still, I knew it wasn't the time to play around. Now is the time to pitch better than I ever have."

The thing is, Marshall may already be doing that.

In 10 1/3 innings this spring, he has yet to surrender an earned run. He has nine strikeouts to go with six walks and has made two starts.

Marshall threw a bullpen session on Wednesday and is scheduled to start the Cubs' exhibition contest against the San Diego Padres in Las Vegas Friday evening. The game can be seen on WGN beginning at 9 p.m. CST.

Coming into spring camp, earning a spot in the Cubs' starting rotation didn't seem so doable in Marshall's mind. But the more he pitched, the more he impressed the Cubs' coaching staff, and following a shoulder injury to Mark Prior and an inconsistent spring by right-hander Jerome Williams, the door was suddenly open.

Said Marshall, "My plan was to come to Spring Training, work hard every day and try to turn the coaches' heads. With the way I pitched, I did just that and they think I'm good enough to pitch up there. I realize there was an arms race going on between me and a few other guys. I'm excited about the opportunity. Hopefully I'll be able to pitch up there for years to come."

Marshall was a promising sixth-round draft pick in 2003 from Virginia Commonwealth University. He missed parts of 2004 and 2005 nursing various setbacks that included bicep tendonitis and an injured tendon in his pitching hand.

He also stayed away from heavy weight-lifting this past off-season and instead chose to focus primarily on abs and oblique muscle exercises. Needless to say, having command of his pitches was one of the most important aspects this spring.

"Being able to go out and command my fastball has helped me the most this spring," Marshall said. "No matter who's hitting up there, if you can throw quality pitches and pound the strike zone, you're going to get results. I've changed my speeds. My curveball is back. It seems like it's better than ever."

Above all, Marshall says he won't allow the opportunity to face big league hitters faze him just because of his status as a rookie.

"I'm not going to change my game plan at all," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and pitch like I've pitched the last couple of years. I'm going to be confident, I'm going to have a good mound presence and I'm going to do all that I can."

Said Cubs Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita: "I'm happy to see that Sean's hard work has paid off and that he has reached his dream of pitching in Wrigley Field."

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