Marshall Working On Breaking Pitches

TRENTON, NJ - It's just before 5pm on Friday and the Trenton Thunder are taking batting practice at Waterfront Park. In just a few hours, the Yankees' Double-A affiliate will open up a four-game set against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Designated hitter Cody Johnson is sending balls to the bank of the Delaware River, which is nestled just behind the right-field wall. Coach Luis Dorante is hitting shortstop Addison Maruszak grounder after grounder, trying to help the infielder perfect his glove work.

And right-handed starting pitcher Brett Marshall is alone at first base, catching throws from second baseman David Adams, who is practicing his double play pivots.

But then something happens.

In from the dugout storms outfielder Damon Sublett, who steals Marshall's first-base glove. Sublett then takes first base as his own and sends Marshall to shag fly balls in the outfield with the rest of the pitching staff.

You can see it in Marshall's face, just how discontent he is relinquishing the bag. It's as if the pitcher has just lost a battle with a hitter, surrendering a rare earned run.

Standing behind home plate watching batting practice, Thunder manager Tony Franklin does not see Marshall and Sublett's encounter. But had he, Franklin would have been proud to see Sublett do something he himself has done before.

"I wish I had seen [Marshall] at first base because I would have run him off of the base again," Franklin said. "I can hear the phone call, ‘so Brett got hurt how?' That's my job.

"I've run Brett off [first base] once already this year, but [pitchers] like to do that stuff, they are baseball players. And baseball players get out there and try different things, like Mariano Rivera, same thing. It's just coincidence Rivera got hurt though, he has been doing it all his life."

In the wake of Rivera's catastrophic injury, you can't blame Franklin for being extra cautious with his best starter, especially when considering how exceptional Marshall has been on the rubber in 2012.

A sixth round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, Marshall is 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 61 1/3 innings this year. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder ranks near the top of the Eastern League's statistical leader board in an array of categories, including wins, innings pitched, ERA, and WHIP.

Marshall has also yielded just three earned runs or less in all but one of his eleven starts this season. Even more impressive, the 22-year-old has given up no runs in four of his last five starts.

"I think Brett has got the makings of a pretty good Major League pitcher," Franklin said. "He's a guy who has extreme confidence, which never hurts. You have to know that when you're out there on that mound, you have the capabilities to get hitters out. Brett has that confidence.

"He locates well, he changes speeds well, and I think he's going to have the ability to do that just as well at the Major League level. He works like crazy when he's on his days off and not pitching. And when you do all that, that's a pretty good combination."

So what exactly is holding Marshall back from the big leagues, or at least Triple-A? As seems to be the case with most minor leaguers, the word consistency comes up.

"He's got major league stuff to get hitters out," Trenton pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. "It's just a matter of being consistent each outing and consistently command his pitches."

But the major reason why it seems Marshall, who is equipped with an 89-94 MPH fastball, an 82-83 MPH changeup and an 83-87 MPH slider, will remain in Double-A for now is that he is still working on developing a couple of his secondary pitches.

Since spending Spring Training with the Major League Yankees, the righty has been working assiduously on progressing his slider. So far, it appears the pitch is really coming along.

"It's going very well," Marshall said. "I've been able to throw [my slider] for strikes when I need to, throw it back door or back foot it to lefties, it's getting really tight. It's got good depth to it, good tilt. So I've been really pleased with it."

Phelps had similar things to say about the slider's improvement.

"The slider has been coming along," Phelps said. "He's able to throw it over the plate, he's working on expanding it down and in to lefties, and ‘back-dooring' it. The command part of it, he's developing it even more but he's starting to get consistent spin and action to the pitch."

Marshall also is in the process of adding a fourth pitch to his repertoire: a curveball. The Yankees' organization, however, is in no rush to add the breaking pitch to the Highlands, Texas native's arsenal.

"I'm tossing the curveball in [practice] right now, but that's about it," Marshall said. "They want me to develop my three pitches first and focus on being able to command my fastball, changeup and slider before I add in a curveball.

"I think we're supposed to start getting [the curveball] back after the all-star break in July or something, just to get it back, work on it, kind of have it as a fourth pitch, as a ‘show-me' pitch."

While Marshall has been relatively unhittable in 2012 [batters are hitting a paltry .238 against him], there is one number in his stat-book that is a little bit concerning.

Through 66 1/3 innings, the righty has fanned just 37 batters. That's an average of .558 strikeouts per inning, or about five punch-outs per nine innings. With his plus-fastball, you'd expect Marshall to have more Ks.

But his low strikeout total can be attributed to a number of different things.

For one, the development of his slider has played a role in Marshall's low strikeout numbers.

"His changeup is a strikeout pitch for him," Phelps said. "But he's been working so much on his slider and in certain counts where maybe he'd put a guy away with a changeup, he's throwing his slider in that count.

"You look at a game, he gets a lot of swing and misses. Not all of them come on strike three, but he'll get a lot of swing and misses throughout the game. I think you'll see as he develops and gets more experience, [more strikeouts] will come."

But the main reason why Marshall lacks in the strikeout department is that his approach on the mound is not conducive to getting a lot of Ks.

"He makes guys put the ball in play," Franklin said. "[Former MLB pitcher] Rick Reuschel always said, ‘I don't let guys hit the ball. I make guys hit the ball.'

"And when you do that you make sure the other team is putting the ball in play, you're not wasting pitches, you're becoming pitch efficient, you're facing the minimum amount of batters you can possibly face. That's what Brett does. He possibly could strike more guys out, but it's not about that. It's about how efficiently can you get this guy out."

Maybe that explains why Marshall was so adamant about playing first base during batting practice on Friday night.

The right-hander needs his defense more than many pitchers. He is not a strikeout machine, so he knows how important it is for his position players to be prepared.

"I was there for a while until the other [first baseman] came," Marshall said about his pre-game encounter with Sublett. "And I was like ‘eh, alright, whatever.' But I like helping out my defenders."

And considering how strong a ground-ball pitcher he has been in 2012, it appears that his defenders don't mind helping him out either.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nDesignated hitter Cody Johnson is sending balls to the bank of the Delaware River, which is nestled just behind the right-field wall. Coach Luis Dorante is hitting shortstop Addison Maruszak grounder after grounder, trying to help the infielder perfect his glove work.
\r\n
\r\nAnd right-handed starting pitcher Brett Marshall is alone at first base, catching throws from second baseman David Adams, who is practicing his double play pivots.
\r\n
\r\nBut then something happens.
\r\n
\r\nIn from the dugout storms outfielder Damon Sublett, who steals Marshall's first-base glove. Sublett then takes first base as his own and sends Marshall to shag fly balls in the outfield with the rest of the pitching staff.
\r\n
\r\nYou can see it in Marshall's face, just how discontent he is relinquishing the bag. It's as if the pitcher has just lost a battle with a hitter, surrendering a rare earned run.
\r\n
\r\nStanding behind home plate watching batting practice, Thunder manager Tony Franklin does not see Marshall and Sublett's encounter. But had he, Franklin would have been proud to see Sublett do something he himself has done before.
\r\n
\r\n\"I wish I had seen [Marshall] at first base because I would have run him off of the base again,\" Franklin said. \"I can hear the phone call, ‘so Brett got hurt how?' That's my job.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've run Brett off [first base] once already this year, but [pitchers] like to do that stuff, they are baseball players. And baseball players get out there and try different things, like Mariano Rivera, same thing. It's just coincidence Rivera got hurt though, he has been doing it all his life.\"
\r\n
\r\nIn the wake of Rivera's catastrophic injury, you can't blame Franklin for being extra cautious with his best starter, especially when considering how exceptional Marshall has been on the rubber in 2012.
\r\n
\r\nA sixth round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, Marshall is 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 61 1/3 innings this year. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder ranks near the top of the Eastern League's statistical leader board in an array of categories, including wins, innings pitched, ERA, and WHIP.
\r\n
\r\nMarshall has also yielded just three earned runs or less in all but one of his eleven starts this season. Even more impressive, the 22-year-old has given up no runs in four of his last five starts.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think Brett has got the makings of a pretty good Major League pitcher,\" Franklin said. \"He's a guy who has extreme confidence, which never hurts. You have to know that when you're out there on that mound, you have the capabilities to get hitters out. Brett has that confidence.
\r\n
\r\n\"He locates well, he changes speeds well, and I think he's going to have the ability to do that just as well at the Major League level. He works like crazy when he's on his days off and not pitching. And when you do all that, that's a pretty good combination.\"
\r\n
\r\nSo what exactly is holding Marshall back from the big leagues, or at least Triple-A? As seems to be the case with most minor leaguers, the word consistency comes up.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's got major league stuff to get hitters out,\" Trenton pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. \"It's just a matter of being consistent each outing and consistently command his pitches.\"
\r\n
\r\nBut the major reason why it seems Marshall, who is equipped with an 89-94 MPH fastball, an 82-83 MPH changeup and an 83-87 MPH slider, will remain in Double-A for now is that he is still working on developing a couple of his secondary pitches.
\r\n
\r\nSince spending Spring Training with the Major League Yankees, the righty has been working assiduously on progressing his slider. So far, it appears the pitch is really coming along.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's going very well,\" Marshall said. \"I've been able to throw [my slider] for strikes when I need to, throw it back door or back foot it to lefties, it's getting really tight. It's got good depth to it, good tilt. So I've been really pleased with it.\"
\r\n
\r\nPhelps had similar things to say about the slider's improvement.
\r\n
\r\n\"The slider has been coming along,\" Phelps said. \"He's able to throw it over the plate, he's working on expanding it down and in to lefties, and ‘back-dooring' it. The command part of it, he's developing it even more but he's starting to get consistent spin and action to the pitch.\"
\r\n
\r\nMarshall also is in the process of adding a fourth pitch to his repertoire: a curveball. The Yankees' organization, however, is in no rush to add the breaking pitch to the Highlands, Texas native's arsenal.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm tossing the curveball in [practice] right now, but that's about it,\" Marshall said. \"They want me to develop my three pitches first and focus on being able to command my fastball, changeup and slider before I add in a curveball.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think we're supposed to start getting [the curveball] back after the all-star break in July or something, just to get it back, work on it, kind of have it as a fourth pitch, as a ‘show-me' pitch.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile Marshall has been relatively unhittable in 2012 [batters are hitting a paltry .238 against him], there is one number in his stat-book that is a little bit concerning.
\r\n
\r\nThrough 66 1/3 innings, the righty has fanned just 37 batters. That's an average of .558 strikeouts per inning, or about five punch-outs per nine innings. With his plus-fastball, you'd expect Marshall to have more Ks.
\r\n
\r\nBut his low strikeout total can be attributed to a number of different things.
\r\n
\r\nFor one, the development of his slider has played a role in Marshall's low strikeout numbers.
\r\n
\r\n\"His changeup is a strikeout pitch for him,\" Phelps said. \"But he's been working so much on his slider and in certain counts where maybe he'd put a guy away with a changeup, he's throwing his slider in that count.
\r\n
\r\n\"You look at a game, he gets a lot of swing and misses. Not all of them come on strike three, but he'll get a lot of swing and misses throughout the game. I think you'll see as he develops and gets more experience, [more strikeouts] will come.\"
\r\n
\r\nBut the main reason why Marshall lacks in the strikeout department is that his approach on the mound is not conducive to getting a lot of Ks.
\r\n
\r\n\"He makes guys put the ball in play,\" Franklin said. \"[Former MLB pitcher] Rick Reuschel always said, ‘I don't let guys hit the ball. I make guys hit the ball.'
\r\n
\r\n\"And when you do that you make sure the other team is putting the ball in play, you're not wasting pitches, you're becoming pitch efficient, you're facing the minimum amount of batters you can possibly face. That's what Brett does. He possibly could strike more guys out, but it's not about that. It's about how efficiently can you get this guy out.\"
\r\n
\r\nMaybe that explains why Marshall was so adamant about playing first base during batting practice on Friday night.
\r\n
\r\nThe right-hander needs his defense more than many pitchers. He is not a strikeout machine, so he knows how important it is for his position players to be prepared.
\r\n
\r\n\"I was there for a while until the other [first baseman] came,\" Marshall said about his pre-game encounter with Sublett. \"And I was like ‘eh, alright, whatever.' But I like helping out my defenders.\"
\r\n
\r\nAnd considering how strong a ground-ball pitcher he has been in 2012, it appears that his defenders don't mind helping him out either.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

Are you a monthly or 3-month subscriber to PinstripesPlus.com? Why not get two months free AND get 4 issues of our PinstripesPlus Magazine included by becoming an annual subscriber? Upgrade today to get the most out of your subscription.

\r\n

\r\n

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