Marcum makes progress, but still long way to go in comeback

"The main reason why I decided to keep going was I didn't want to end my career on an injury and my kids wanted to see me pitch again." -Shaun Marcum on returning to play with the Indians.

Lance Iversen/Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Despite battling right shoulder problems for over a year, Shaun Marcum did not look at Friday’s appearance in an Indians’ spring training game as another goal reached. Instead, it merely showed that he has more work to do if he has a shot at making it back to the majors.

"When I pitched last year for Columbus that felt like I cleared a hurdle," Marcum said on Saturday before the Indians faced the Dodgers. "I feel great and my arm feels good. Now I have to keep building arm strength and keep improving my mechanics."

In Friday’s 11-9 loss to Kansas City, Marcum worked two innings and allowed two hits with no walks or strikeouts. It was his first appearance against major-league competition since July 6, 2013, when the right-hander pitched for the Mets against the Brewers. In that game he allowed five runs on 11 hits in five innings to drop to 1-10 with a 5.29 ERA. A week later, Marcum underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome to repair an artery blockage in the shoulder which was causing arm numbness.

Marcum signed with the Indians prior to last season but experienced more setbacks. His rehab came along slowly as he didn’t pitch in a spring-training game and was shut down during extended spring training in May due to a stress fracture in his right shoulder and considered retirement.

"I talked to my wife about it because all I was doing was rehabbing," he said. "But I cleared my mind and got back to it. The main reason why I decided to keep going was I didn’t want to end my career on an injury and my kids wanted to see me pitch again."

Marcum pitched in Columbus the last month of the season, making eight appearances, including a start, and going 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA. Despite giving up three runs and striking out five in three innings in an International League playoff loss to Indianapolis, Marcum said he felt like he was pretty much back to normal and was hoping that the Clippers could have advanced further instead of getting knocked out in the first round so that he could keep pitching.

"He spent almost the entire summer in Goodyear which can be hard enough especially for a major-league veteran," said Terry Francona of Marcum. "I’m sure it was rewarding for him on Friday talking to the catcher about executing his pitches instead of rehabbing."

Marcum, 33, is a nine-year veteran who owns a 58-46 record after stints with the Blue Jays, Brewers and Mets from 2005-13. It is the second-straight year that the Indians have had him in camp on a minor-league deal.

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He didn’t allow any runs against the Royals but Marcum said he got away with some pitches that were hard hit but resulted in outs. Besides making sure he has built up arm strength, Marcum said he is working on keeping his fastball down and away so that he can use his other pitches more.

Marcum could factor in somewhere down the line as a starter but Francona did say that it was going to be a difficult evaluation.

"He is a veteran guy and has not overwhelmed on the (radar) gun before all this happened," Francona said. "It is spring training and he hasn’t pitched for awhile. We are going to be honest and conscientious because it is not an easy evaluation to do."