Marks, Whitley excited for September opportunity

Marks, Whitley excited for September opportunity

ST. PETERSBURG -- Justin Marks was all set to pack his bags and drive home to Kentucky after Triple-A Durham's final game of the season on Monday. Then he got called into the manager's office and received news that "blindsided" him.

Instead of going home, he'd be traveling to Tropicana Field -- a Major League ballpark for the first time in more than two seasons. The 28-year-old was so excited that he didn't even wait for his plane ride on Tuesday morning. He drove through the night, more than 10 hours, and got to St. Petersburg after 4 a.m. ET.

"Obviously I wish I could say I spent the last three years in the big leagues, but it hasn't been that way," Marks said. "This definitely feels better than the first time I was called up. To work all the way back. To be a Minor League free agent and go through Spring Training and go through a full year and start the year off injured, to work back to this point is pretty cool."

Marks, who had a 3.86 ERA over 140 innings with Triple-A Durham this season, has only one Major League game to his resume. On April 20, 2014, he came in for two innings of relief for the Royals in an 8-3 loss to Minnesota. He allowed three runs on four hits and two walks. And that was his only opportunity.

He was optioned back to the Minors four days later and traded to the D-backs for cash the next month. Two weeks after that, he was claimed off waivers by the A's. A month later, the Rangers claimed him off waivers. He spent 2015 battling injuries, and spent all of 2016 with Durham.

Now a second shot at the Major Leagues awaits Marks.

"Excited for Justin," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Our guys were really excited for the opportunity to tell him that he was getting called up. He's put together a nice year in Triple-A."

Marks started on Saturday and threw 100 pitches, so he won't be available to pitch for a couple of days. When he does, his role will be to come out of the bullpen.

Whitley ready to pitch

Chase Whitley was called back up the Major Leagues on Monday. The right-hander will be making scheduled bullpen outings with a certain number of innings planned, which he will discuss with Cash over the coming days.

In nine Minor League starts between Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery this season, Whitely had a 2.21 ERA over 36 2/3 innings.

"It's going to be great," Whitley said. "I'm really excited, because it was awesome to be able to watch [Alex] Cobb throw the other night. The both of us, the work we've put in, I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait to get back out there."

Sam Blum is a reporter for based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.