CINCINNATI — Sean Marshall’s absence in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen is like the missing man formation in a fighter squadron — it is starkly evident that something is not right.
With Marshall missing, the domino effect has never been more prevalent, because the Reds have scrambled and scratched and searched to fill his void — a left-handed setup guy and a situational left-hander.
Marshall has been on the disabled list twice this year, and that it is his current residence. It looks as if he’ll be there for at least three more weeks with what is termed, “shoulder fatigue and weakness.”
So what is he doing, other than a daily rehab regimen? He calls himself, “assistant bullpen coach.”
“This gives me a chance to give some guidance to some guys, make sure they are ready to pitch, give them some insight on how I pitch guys, especially left-hander Manny Parra.”
Marshall, a 6-foot-7, 224-pound 30-year-old who signed a four-year, $20 million deal before last season describes his injury as, “Laxity in my shoulder. When I was pitching, it was doing a lot of jarring around that was causing inflammation in the front and the back.
“I shut my arm down for two weeks so we could stabilize my shoulder, the big muscles that control it. So far, it has been doing really well. We’re hoping it won’t be a continued problem after we get it strong and stabilized.”
Marshall, obtained from the Chicago Cubs in a deal that sent pitcher Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and infielder Ronald Torreyes to the Cubs before the 2012 season, was 5-5 with a 2.51 ERA in 73 appearances last year.
This season, he has appeared in only 11 games and is 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA.
“The first time, before I went on the DL, I was trying to pitch through it,” he said. “I’d pitch a game and be sore for a day, then pitch a game and be sore for a day. So I knew there was something deep down causing this soreness and that wasn’t right because I’ve always been able to pitch three or four days in a row for the last five years.”
An MRI was taken, and it showed the extra movement that caused inflammation, forcing the Reds to shut him down.
“I feel pretty good now,” Marshall said. “The two weeks off rebuilt the arm strength and it won’t be too long before I’m back on the mound.”
However, he added that not-too-long might be as long as three weeks. Marshall is throwing from 90 feet, but not off the mound. His next step is long-tossing in the outfield, and then he’ll climb the hill.
Asked about watching the team’s bullpen meltdowns during his absence, he said: “That’s part of baseball. Everybody is not going to be perfect all the time. On the good side, this gives some other guys a chance to pitch in some meaningful games, for them to learn. It’s still early in the season.”
Marshall is impressed with rookie Curtis Partch, called up last week. In his major league debut, the first batter he faced, Matt Holliday, hit a grand slam.
Welcome to the bigs, son.
But late last week during a 14-inning game, Partch pitched four innings — the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th and held the Cubs scoreless on one hit.
“That was fantastic, and he really stepped up big,” Marshall said. “Too bad we couldn’t get him a win. He left it all out there.”
More important, Marshall loved what Partch said after the game to the media.
“He said, ‘I wasn’t trying to do too much; I just tried to execute my pitches.’ For a young guy to come up here and say that, that’s pretty solid,” Marshall said.
Marshall understands that when he is ready he might have to go to the minors and make a few tune-up appearances.
“I understand that,” he said. “I’m just working my butt off to get back. In those 11 games I’ve been able to pitch, I’ve helped the team win. Now I’m hoping to get strong and healthy for the last 80 games or so. The big innings are later in the season, and I’m looking forward to being in those meaningful games.”