Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jason Marquis Introductory Press Conference

Wearing Number 21 for Our Washington Nationals, Jason Marquis stood on stage in the media room smiling and shaking hands with Our General Manager Mike Rizzo. The introductory press conference for Washington's newest baseball player had just concluded. A 20-Minute Meet & Greet with the local media that witnessed a confident and self-assured 31-Year Old state in a terrific New York accent: "...hopefully, they (his new Nationals Teammates) can feed off what I do between starts. Feed off what I do on the mound and apply it to themselves. I am open ears, open arms and any advice that I can be there for them and any helpful hints (I can give them)—well--that is what I am all about."

The veteran presence on the mound talked about, wished for, hoped for--today, finally signed for by Our Washington Nationals three days before Christmas--2009. A present needed to solidify Washington's Starting Rotation for the upcoming 2010 season. Marquis was all about team today and repeatedly said just that in this afternoon's presser--like this doozy of a quote: "I think sometimes people get stuck on numbers, ERA (stats) instead--and lose sight of winning ballgames. And that is something I have learned whether you win the game, 10-9, 2-1 or 1-0, whatever it may be. The ultimate goal is to win ballgames and that is how you get to the next level. Getting to the playoffs is the ultimate goal and sometimes people lose sight of that."

Just Win is what Jason Marquis says he is all about. That's the type of guy we want to see on your team.

With that--here is the full transcript of today's Jason Marquis Introductory Press Conference:

Mike Gazda (Director, Baseball Media Relations): I would like to thank everyone watching the proceedings live both locally on our television partner MASN and nationally on the MLB Network. Just to give you guys the format of today’s news conference. In a moment, I am going to hand things over to Mike Rizzo—who is The Nationals Senior Vice-President and General Manager. He will introduce the newest member of The Nationals—Two Time All-Star Pitcher Jason Marquis. After their remarks, we will open the floor up for questioning and then we will break out into some informal one on ones. So, at this time, Mike Rizzo.

Mike Rizzo: Good Afternoon, another exciting day here for The Washington Nationals Family. We are very proud to present the newest member of our family, right-handed pitcher Jason Marquis. He comes to us with impeccable character, impeccable credentials and a work ethic, which is what we are trying to implore with all of our players here in Washington. As Mike (Gazda) said, a two-time All-Star, his numbers speak for himself. As consistent a performer as there is in Major League Baseball. A workhorse, a true teammate and true guy that takes the ball in all situations. It is my extreme pleasure to announce to you the newest member of The Washington Nationals—Jason Marquis.

(Donning of The Uniform and Cap—wearing Number 21)

Jason Marquis—Thank you very much.

Jason: I just want to thank The Washington Nationals Organization for bringing me onboard. This is an exciting time for myself, my family, everything we could have dreamed of. To come here to an organization that has shown that they are looking to move forward, build this organization to a winning organization and for me to be a part of this is a special part of my career. What I bring to the table is someone with a winning attitude that, hopefully, can rub off on some of the young talent that they have brought in (already), like myself, Pudge (Rodriguez), and create just a winning attitude here in Washington. And I am just looking forward to start.

Question: My first question to you is what was it about The Nationals that intrigued you? All the New York papers had you going to The Mets. I just want to know why?

Jason: They (The Nationals) are in a phase where they went out and made improvements to become a winning team. Hopefully, next year, down the road in the future, with guys like Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Cristian Guzman, Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn—the list goes on. I think they (The Nationals) need a little more veteran presence, guys that have been there—on winning teams—that can bring a winning attitude and pass down the lessons they have learned from each team they have played on. So it’s an exciting time and something I am proud to be apart of.

Question: Like you were saying, you are going to be the veteran on a young pitching staff of second and third year guys. How do you look at your role there as far a leadership is concerned? And are you the type that is vocal with teammates? Or, is it more of leader by example?

Jason: It is a combination of both. You have got to know your teammates. Who can be spoken to; who can come to you. I have been in their shoes before. I’ve looked up to the likes of (Greg) Maddux, (Tommy) Glavine and (John) Smoltz and learned a lot of valuable lessons from them—not only on the field, but also off the field. But on the field, they are going to see a guy that gives everything he’s got. There is no let up. I play the game to win and that is about it. So hopefully, they can feed off what I do between starts. Feed off what I do on the mound and apply it to themselves. I am open ears, open arms and any advice that I can be there for them and any helpful hints (I can give them)—well--that is what I am all about.

Question: Last year, after you pitched against The Nationals in July, a lot of the players in The Washington Clubhouse were talking about how you changed a lot as a pitcher from, say, three years ago until now. How would you describe your evolution as starter in terms of what you know about the game?

Jason: Well, sometimes in this game there are failures. You have got to learn from past experiences as to why they don’t work. And I am always striving to be better and I am still that way today. I am always looking for ways to improve. And that is what I have learned throughout this game that you either have to make the adjustment or you will not be around. I went from a guy who was a four-seam (fastball) guy back in Atlanta, then went to St. Louis and learned how to throw a sinker—which benefited my career. But as each year goes by, you learn what you are capable and not capable of doing and that is what I have been about.

Follow Up Question: Any critical moments like learning that sinker that you can point back on?

Jason: It is a pitch that I always felt comfortable throwing from Little League to High School, to the Minor Leagues and even when I got to The Big Leagues. But a pitching coach stressed the importance of it in terms of going deeper into games—lower pitch counts. It’s a contact pitch, Instead of trying to be the guy that is trying to have a guy (batter) swing and miss sometimes, it’s a miss-hit pitch, and it allows me to get deeper into games. It takes stress off the bullpen and it gives me and my team a better chance to win.

Question: You had a strong first half last year, lesser of a second half. Have you had the time to reflect on what was different that you need to work on for 2010?

Jason: I always sit back and try to see what I can do better over the winter when the season ends. And you try to come up with a game plan—it could be anywhere from the physical standpoint to a mental standpoint—maybe doing too much in season with working out. Or, knowing when to pick a spot to relax and give your body a little more rest and recovery time. But I think I have made some mental notes and wrote them down and I think I have come up with some ideas that will help me through the month of September. It’s a trial by error and I can’t sit here and say I am going to go 6-0, but I am going to try to go 6-0 and do everything in my power to go 6-0.

Follow Up Question: So, you don’t feel this is a fatigue factor (in your arm)?

Jason: No. My arm feels just as healthy in April, May, as it did in September. I think it came more down to a location, pitch selection type of situation. And I just have to go back and watch film and try to have mental notes of how you felt with the combo of everything.

Question: Have you had the chance to reach out to some of the current starters, like John Lannan? What were those conversations like?

Jason: Not yet. I did speak to John last year after a game here. A couple of players came out actually. He was saying how he felt he loved it here. John’s put up two pretty good seasons here the last two years—his first two years in the Big Leagues. And like I said, he was looking for a veteran to be around helping to lead the staff. Sometimes it’s asking a lot for a first year, second year player to lead a pitching staff. But he has done a great job of doing that and hopefully I can add to that and make these guys better and get them to where they need to be and learn more about the game and winning games.

Follow Up Question: There are a lot of young arms in this organization. With the addition of you, how good could this staff be?

Jason: There is a lot of potential. There is a lot of potential around baseball with ability and they just haven’t learned how to use it. I think sometimes people get stuck on numbers, ERA instead and lose sight of winning ballgames. And that is something I have learned whether you win the game, 10-9, 2-1 or 1-0, whatever it may be. The ultimate goal is to win ballgames and that is how you get to the next level. Getting to the playoffs is the ultimate goal and sometimes people lose sight of that.

Question: Mike—when did the focus turn to Jason as far as the off-season goes?

Mike Rizzo: Starting pitching was our number one prerequisite going into the winter as far as what we are trying to do. Jason was in the small group of pitchers that we wanted to acquire from the beginning—since the end of the season really. The negotiations turned specifically to him late last week and the momentum carried us into late Saturday night (December 19th), early Sunday morning—when Jason’s people and myself reached a verbal understanding.

Question: Jason, you are a product of that Braves Farm System from the 1990’s. Could you talk to us about what it was like to come up as a pitcher at that time and why they were so successful?

Jason: It was an exciting time. I was real young. I thought I would never get a chance with the names of the pitchers on that Big League staff. But you have to stick with what you believe in, work hard. In the Minor Leagues, they teach development, really to get you prepared for the Big Leagues. But once I got up there, like I mentioned the names before--Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, (Kevin) Millwood, Steve Avery was around—guys with experience, with a history of winning. They were there to help you win ball games; help you get over the hump and become a great Major League pitcher. They really taught you to be yourself, don’t try to be like them. Be yourself, try to find who you are on the mound, but also the preparation it took between starts to become a great Major League pitcher. And that goes for working hard in the weight room; working hard with the trainers; watching film; coming up with scouting reports—so I learned a lot from these guys and it is one of the reasons I am here today.

Question: How much pride do you take in being an innings eater since that has happened, obviously, throughout your career? How much of that—wanting the ball—can rub off on a young staff like we have here in Washington?

Jason: I take pride in taking the ball every fifth day. Innings eater I would not say, I want to throw quality innings. I don’t want to go out there and get beat up and throw innings at the same time. I want to throw quality innings and give my teammates a chance to win every single day—every time I take the ball. And it’s a pride factor—not allowing myself or my body to breakdown and not give my team a chance to win. I feel like I let my team down if I am not there for them. And that stems back from when I was a kid, the competitive edge that I have always had—not wanting to lose, not wanting to give in, not wanting to be (off) the field—drives me to work on and do better day by day.

Question: Was there anything that Mike or someone else said during the free agent process that really made you picture yourself in that (Washington) uniform and come here?

Jason: I follow baseball. I am a baseball fan. I follow teams. What direction they are going? What moves they make? What they are looking for? But ultimately, Mike and The Nationals showed the interest that they wanted Jason Marquis and that is a huge factor that goes into it (the decision). Being in a place where you feel wanted, when they had your back from day one—and that’s one of the many reasons why I came here.

Question: You are a pretty good hitting pitcher. Did that play any factor in you wanting to stay in The National League?

Jason: A little bit. Mike threw in a few clauses in there for plate appearances (laughing). No. But I feel like it’s another dimension to the game that can help you win a ball game. I take pride in my hitting. I take pride in my base running. I take pride in my bunting. And those are one of many things that can help you win a ball game. Over these last six years, I could say seven or eight times maybe where my at-bats or my legs have helped me win a ball game or the team win a ball game. And that little difference on my end—as opposed to somebody who doesn’t take pride in that—even if you get the other four starters onboard—that’s the difference in winning 70 games to 80 games to 90 games. And like I said, that is the type of attitude I am going to try to bring to this team.

Question: Mike, given the status of the starting pitching last year, one pitcher doesn’t fulfill everything you need. Are you in the market for another type of pitcher like Jason now to go along with him? Or, are you moving on to other needs now?

Mike: We are always in the market to improve our ball club in any way we can. No one ever has enough pitching. We feel we’ve checked one of the boxes of our greatest needs going into the season with a top of the rotation-starting pitcher. But we are never satisfied here. I am never satisfied. I am as competitive as anybody. We are trying to bring a winning ball club—not only for 2010—but for beyond. We are open to acquiring players that increase our chances of winning ball games in any way we can—free agency, trades, waiver claims—any way we can to improve the ball club. And we certainly haven’t stopped any of that.

With that final answer, The Jason Marquis Introductory Press Conference concluded. Marquis and Rizzo then did side sessions with the reporters on hand at Nationals Park. There will be more coming later this evening on Nats320 with Jason Marquis and Mike Rizzo.

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