Veteran Marquis adds toughness to Padres' rotation
New Yorker survived devastating storm, broken bones, family scare in past year
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's been one rough winter, following a very tough year for Padres right-hander Jason Marquis.
A native of Staten Island, N.Y., Marquis' offseason began with Hurricane Sandy and ended with a blizzard. Before that, in a very short period of time, he broke a leg and a wrist. His father, Phil, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had hip replacement surgery. His now 8-year-old daughter, Reese, nearly died after a freak bicycle accident.
In the past three years, Marquis' career has taken him from Washington to Arizona to Minnesota and now San Diego. The Padres are his eighth big league team. But at the Peoria Sports Complex on Thursday, the sun was shining. Temperatures later in the week are expected to eclipse 75 degrees. Last Saturday, Marquis shoveled eight inches of snow off his driveway. Things are starting to look up.
"It should be a good year as long as we don't have any unforeseen accidents," Marquis said before working out with the rest of the San Diego pitchers and catchers on Thursday. "Things are starting off on a good note. I'm excited about the season. I'm glad to be back here. It's always nice to be closer to home, especially when you have three kids, but it's also nice to be somewhere I'm wanted and appreciated."
Right now, the Padres have Marquis penciled into the starting rotation. Marquis is Jewish and a solid New Yorker through and through, which appeals to the Padres.
They didn't make many moves this offseason, but they did re-sign Marquis as a free agent to a one-year deal worth $3 million.
"He's a tough guy," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's that New York, Staten Island tough guy. He's just got that mentality. That's part of what makes him who he is, which is wonderful, right?"
By the time the Padres re-signed Marquis, many of his friends were digging out of the rubble caused by Sandy in the south shore neighborhood of Staten Island called Tottenville. The hurricane whipped across the East Coast on Oct. 22, wreaking havoc, destroying communities, causing billions of dollars in damage and killing hundreds. Marquis owns a one-family house on an incline not far from the shore. It withstood the pounding of the wind and the storm surge from New York Harbor that engulfed many of his neighbors.
On that note, Marquis proved to be more than fortunate. Marquis and his wife, Debbie, put the kids to bed and rode out the storm on the living room couch.
"The night of the storm was scary," Marquis said. "I was out about 6:30 or so, and the winds were 50 to 60 miles-per-hour. You've seen those before. But when the high tide and the full moon hit around 9:00, it got frightening. The wind got up to 90-95 mph. Trees were ripped out of the ground. You feel your house shaking and windows rattling. You just try to be as safe as possible and hope everything works out for the best.
"Where we sit, we're just a little above sea level. You've just got to count your blessings and pray for those who weren't [as lucky]. Fortunately we were OK, but neighbors and fellow Staten Islanders were not as fortunate."
Much earlier in the year, as Marquis was preparing for last season's Spring Training with the Twins in Fort Myers, Fla., Reese was riding her bicycle on those same streets just outside the family home. She fell and hit the handle bar, lacerating her liver. Reese suffered so much internal bleeding that doctors were worried about whether she would survive.
But she comes from good stock.
On Aug. 14, 2011, while pitching for the D-backs against the Mets at Chase Field, Angel Pagan slammed a third-inning liner off Marquis' right shin, breaking the leg. Marquis shook it off and stayed in the game.
That day, Marquis batted in the bottom of the inning and took the mound for the fourth. Three batters in, he hit Josh Thole with a pitch. Both players crumbled to the ground. Thole dusted himself off and went to first. Marquis was carried off the field with a fractured fibula. He had taken an at-bat and thrown 13 pitches on a broken leg, and he ended up missing the rest of the season.
Last year, on Aug. 21 -- his 34th birthday -- Marquis was pitching for the Padres against Pittsburgh when a line drive hit by Pedro Alvarez deflected off the base of his glove, breaking his left wrist. The incident occurred that day on his 20th pitch, but he threw 66 more pitches with the injury. Again, he missed the remainder of the season.
Reese is the oldest of Marquis' kids, and like her father, she rarely complains about pain. Marquis was in Florida a year ago, when he received the call about her accident. His wife and father-in-law had a feeling something was amiss and decided to rush Reese to the hospital. Thus began an odyssey of phone calls from New York to Florida. A normal adult human body stores five quarts of blood. Reese had lost 3 1/2 pints, and doctors said she had a 50-50 chance of survival.
Marquis missed most of that Spring Training and was ultimately cut by the Twins, allowing the Padres to pick him up. Reese is now fully recovered and is about to get back on a bicycle again, just like her father always jumps right back up on the mound.
"She's doing outstanding," Marquis said. "You couldn't ask for a better kid, a better recovery. She's smiling all the time, flipping around doing her gymnastics, which is her passion."
Tough group, that Marquis family. He has again recovered. Reese has recovered. His working-class dad has recovered. And Staten Island is beginning to recover from the devastating storm. Marquis was born in Brooklyn and moved to Staten Island when he was 2 years old. And Staten Island, the most remote of New York's five boroughs, is where he plans to remain.
"Yeah, it has been eventful," Marquis said. "I always try to remain positive and do whatever I can to fix the problem. I try to focus on the solution, not the problem. I try to apply that to every aspect of my life, whether it's life or death like my daughter went through, or me breaking a bone in my body -- my leg, my hand or whatever it may be. I try to pass it along so my kids think in that manner.
"I try to explain to them: 'Don't ever let anybody have sympathy for you' and you shouldn't have sympathy for yourself. Things happen, you remain positive, you move on and you learn from those experiences.'"
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.