If the first month of Oliver Marquez’s career in professional baseball was meant to illustrate his skill, then the second month was meant to illustrate his flexibility. After dominating in April, the right-handed rookie spent time as a starter and a reliever in May. However, such a change didn’t affect his ability to get outs and that is only helping to lift his stock in the Boston Red Sox organization.
For those of you wondering who Marquez is, let’s rewind a little. Marquez is the next great Red Sox prospect, at least in the world of MLB The Show. Until baseball comes back, whenever that may be, we’ll be following along with Marquez’s career using the Road to the Show feature of the game.
Now let’s get back to (virtual) Portland where Marquez is currently pitching in Double-A as a member of the Sea Dogs.
Marquez entered May after dicing up every opponent he faced in April. He posted a 5-0 record with a 0.57 ERA across 31 1⁄3 innings. A lot of that work was done on Veteran difficulty, so we bumped it up to All-Star for the last two starts of the month and kept it up in May.
Before Marquez was asked to work out of the bullpen, he made his sixth start of the season on May 5 against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, a team with which he is becoming very familiar.
In the days before that start, Marquez continued to build his friendship with fellow starter Robert Ishii. Much of their conversation was about Portland’s slow start to the season, which is puzzling considering the Sea Dogs were 19-10 on May 5. I guess Ishii and Marquez are both perfectionists.
Marquez also worked on his curveball control during bullpen sessions between his last start of April and first one of May. The work paid off as he got three of the first six outs of his May 5 start via a strikeout with his curve. That wasn’t even the most impressive aspect of the game, however.
After walking the first batter of the game on four pitches, Marquez got on a roll and carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Unfortunately, an error broke his rhythm to start the inning and after getting a strikeout, he allowed his first hit on a dribbler just past the outstretched glove of the first baseman. Marquez was taken out after that.
Compounding the disappointment of losing the no-hitter was the fact that Portland didn’t do much in terms of offense, so when the two runners Marquez let on scored, it accounted for the winning runs in a 2-1 decision. What a waste of a game when Marquez logged 7 1⁄3 innings of one-hit ball to go along with 12 strikeouts.
In a surprising turn of events, even after throwing a near no-hitter, Marquez sat down with his manager between starts and was told the organization wants him to try out long relief. Considering Marquez was sporting a 0.67 FIP through six starts, this seemed like an odd request, but after some hesitation, he accepted the role.
Framing the role as one of long relief wasn’t entirely accurate. Over the next couple weeks, Marquez came in to finish out seven games as a closer. He performed his job perfectly, going 7-for-7 on save chances while posting a 0.00 ERA and five strikeouts across 5 2⁄3 innings.
As he adjusted to the new role, Marquez worked on his sinker velocity to better fit the closer mold. That work might not have been entirely necessary, however, as he was reinserted into the starting rotation after seven relief appearances.
Following some work with the pitching coach and some long-distance running to build stamina, Marquez made his next start on May 21 against the Trenton Thunder. He missed fewer bats than usual, surrendering seven hits, but didn’t allow any runs while walking one and striking out seven over six innings.
Such a successful return to the rotation was followed up by a call from a potential agent at fictional agency 989 Sports Management named John Kent. Marquez didn’t immediately hire him, but after thinking it over and getting some outside advice, he decided to sign with Kent following his next start.
In the aforementioned outing, Marquez had to face two opponents. The first was the Altoona Curve. The second was a lack of run support. Marquez handled both pretty well through the first six innings, as he held the Curve scoreless. Unfortunately, he allowed a single to start the seventh and was immediately pulled. That runner came around to score and since Portland was shut out in the contest, Marquez was handed the loss.
That closed the book on the month of May for Marquez. Despite a somewhat sour ending, it was still a great month both for the right-hander and for the Sea Dogs overall. Marquez is 6-2 with a 0.64 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 0.59 FIP across 56 1⁄3 innings. He has struck out 74 batters and walked only four. He leads all qualified pitchers in Double-A in ERA and walks allowed and is just a fraction behind the leader in WHIP. In addition, he is the top Eastern League vote-getter at starting pitcher for the All-Star Game, with 167,000 votes. Right behind him is teammate Patrick Bunning (126,000).
With such a strong starting rotation, the Sea Dogs lead Double-A in team ERA (2.25) and strikeouts (485) while maintaining the best record at the level (37-18). We’ll see if the good times keep rolling next week when we look at how Marquez (and I) do in June with a potential bump up to Hall of Fame difficulty.