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Cubs finalize contract with Marquis

Cubs finalize contract with Marquis

CHICAGO -- Jason Marquis said that he regained his confidence after a session with Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild, and that helped both the free-agent right-hander and the team decide that they'd be a good match.

The Cubs completed their rotation on Tuesday by inking Marquis to a three-year, $21 million contract.

His session with Rothschild came about because Marquis was bothered by his inconsistent mechanics in 2006. The right-hander was 14-16 with a 6.02 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals last year, his second straight losing season. He was 11-6 with a 5.55 ERA in the first half of 2006, and 3-10 with a 6.72 ERA in the second half.

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"I knew I wasn't far off," Marquis said on Tuesday. "Knowing the knowledge Larry had, they said he would be a good guy to go see. It was nothing more than to get my mind right and get in a positive frame of mind."

Rothschild watched Marquis throw and gave him some drills to do. Marquis now does them before every workout.

"I'm back to a natural movement where I don't have to think about it," Marquis said. "That's what I was fighting the last part of the season."

"It certainly played a role," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said of Rothschild's part in the decision. "If Larry wasn't comfortable with him, we might not have done it. He was on our radar screen even before he saw Larry."

Marquis' agent, Seth Levinson, told the Cubs that the young pitcher felt good after the session, and he was hoping that the two sides could swing a deal.

"I was just a hair off," Marquis said of his mechanics. "It wasn't allowing me to execute my pitches the way I wanted to. With the adjustment we made, it'll help me work my sinker down like I'm capable of doing."

Marquis made a career-high 33 starts last season, and reached milestone marks, including his 50th career win on June 4 against the Cubs, and his 500th career strikeout on June 26 against Cleveland.

Marquis had two starts he'd rather forget, including a loss on June 21 to the White Sox in which he gave up 13 runs on 14 hits over five innings, and a defeat on July 18 to the Braves in which he was tagged for 12 earned runs on 14 hits over five innings. But five days after the outing against the Braves, Marquis bounced back and threw eight shutout innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"Obviously, those were tough pills to swallow," Marquis said of the two bad games. "I took one for the team -- no complaints. I think in the long term, I was worried about my numbers rather than focusing on pitch by pitch. [My ERA] was playing on my mind. When you look at numbers, it doesn't always reflect what type of pitcher you are. It was more of a confidence thing. I was trying to do too many things outside of my limits, and it just snowballed."

Marquis wasn't sure what role Rothschild played in convincing the Cubs to sign the right-hander.

"In terms of my confidence going into the offseason and mechanics, it was a big deal," Marquis said. "We both feel confident and feel the problem is fixed, and we're going in the same direction."

Marquis has been tutored by some of the best pitching coaches, including Leo Mazzone and Dave Duncan. For some reason, it clicked with Rothschild.

"Any time you feel comfortable in a situation, it makes your job easier," Marquis said. "You don't have to feel like you're walking on eggshells. You don't have to feel like you're looking over your shoulder and have to please everybody.

Marquis is hoping for another chance at baseball in October. He was not on the Cardinals' playoff roster for the World Series.

"As a competitor, I missed being on the field," he said. "I knew I contributed to get us to that point. It was something I was obviously upset about. As a competitor, you want to be out there and pitch, and that's what I'm about."

Does he have something to prove?

"I have something to prove to myself and the city of Chicago, and that's it," Marquis said. "I know what I'm capable of doing, and the Cubs know what I'm capable of doing. Being around Larry for those couple sessions made a big difference. We got on the same page. I think it'll be a positive experience for the next three years."

Marquis' best season was in 2004, when he went 15-7 with a 3.71 ERA for the Cardinals. Since the start of that season, Marquis has notched 42 victories, which are more wins than Jason Schmidt (41), Barry Zito (41) or Pedro Martinez (40) have had in that span.

"If he can win 15 ballgames and pitch 200 innings, he's a good guy for us," Hendry said.

Last week, the Cubs finalized a four-year, $40 million deal with free-agent lefty Ted Lilly, and the rotation now includes Carlos Zambrano, Lilly and Marquis. Among the candidates for the other spots are Rich Hill, Sean Marshall, Wade Miller, Mark Prior and possibly Neal Cotts.

There is a surplus, but the team did not want to be caught short-handed as far as starters after all of the injuries it sustained in 2006. The Cubs used 15 different starting pitchers in 2006, and only three -- Zambrano, Marshall and Maddux -- totaled 100 innings.

"We're done looking for pitching," Hendry said. "I think we're deep now. We've got guys who can give us innings. I like the depth of our 'pen. We might have the ability to send a lot of good young people back into the system and allow them to develop properly instead of forcing them up like we had to last year."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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