ATLANTASometimes a shock to the system can provide the solution to a lingering situation.
The Braves hope that proves to be the case with Jason Marquis. A mainstay in the Atlanta rotation since mid-2001, the hard-throwing righthander was shipped to Triple-A Richmond on Easter weekend to make room for Mike Hampton on the 25-man roster.
"It was a shock when they told me," the 24-year-old Marquis said. "It would be easy to (pout), but I realize that I have to make the most of the opportunity (in Richmond) and prove that I belong up there."
Marquis made a steady rise through the Braves farm system before earning a job in Atlanta out of spring training in 2001. He joined the rotation midway through his rookie campaign and allowed just 17 earned runs in his final 10 starts. Overall, he went 5-6, 3.48 in 38 outings in 2001 but surrendered 26 earned runs in his last seven starts, covering 26 innings the following year.
Despite a depleted rotation, the signing of veteran righthander Shane Reynolds, the emergence of lefty Horacio Ramirez and solid efforts by Trey Hodges and Jung Bong in the bullpen made Marquis the odd man out this spring.
The early returns in Richmond were encouraging. Marquis, who posted a 6.57 ERA and allowed 14 hits and 10 walks in 12 innings with Atlanta before the demotion, surrendered just two earned runs in his first two starts with Richmond.
The 1996 first-round selection has worked diligently with Richmond pitching coach Guy Hansen, who has overhauled Marquis mechanics. One of the primary aspects Hansen has stressed is getting Marquis, 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, back to using his strong, massive thighs and improving his leg drive. The changes were obvious almost immediately, with Marquis fastball improving from the 90-92 mph range to 93-94 mph between his first and second starts at Richmond.
Pundits had another field day over the Braves decision to unload Kevin Millwood after the Phillies righthander tossed a no-hitter. The team, however, is optimistic the acquisition of catcher Johnny Estrada will prove valuable as Javy Lopez recovers from a hamstring injury. "He looks like a guy that can play everyday up here," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. Estrada was hitting .392-2-16 at Richmond at the time of his promotion.
Class A Myrtle Beach did not homer until outfielder Charles Thomas clubbed a game-winning shot to lead off the ninth inning in the Pelicans 18th contest. Opponents hit 14 homers against Myrtle Beach during that stretch.
Previous organization report: Bill McCarthy
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