Phillies Sign Jason Marquis; Recall Ethan Martin, Demote Aumont

Dilip Vishwanat

Is the Marquis signing just adding depth to the minor league stable? Or are there ominous shoes still to drop?

The Phillies signed 35-year-old journeyman starter Jason Marquis to a minor league deal on Tuesday, a move that normally wouldn't matter all that much.

Marquis had Tommy John elbow surgery last July and will head to Clearwater to begin extended spring training. He should be in the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs rotation sometime in July. Marquis' career ERA (spanning 14 years) is 4.56, and last year he went 9-5 with San Diego with a 4.05 ERA, with some pretty terrible strikeout and walk numbers (5.51 K/9, 5.20 BB/9), and an awful fWAR of -1.6.

Since 2005, Marquis has posted an ERA of 4.13, 6.02, 4.60, 4.53, 4.04, 6.60, 4.43, 5.22 and 4.05.

It's a no-risk depth move for the Phillies, plain and simple. But there are two reasons why that depth could come into play sooner rather than later.

With the Phillies at a season-worst seven games under .500 (24-31), 6.5 games out of first place and 3 games behind the Mets for 4th place, the calls for the Phils to become sellers has grown louder. In an interview on WIP this morning, Amaro said if the team didn't turn things around in the next "few weeks," the team would have to start exploring its options on the trade market.

If the Phils decide to unload Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, A.J. Burnett or Roberto Hernandez, Marquis would be able to slide into the back of the rotation and gobble up some of those innings.

The other reason that depth could be tested is the first name on that list of pitchers in the previous sentence. Fourteen days after being shut down and placed on the disabled list, Lee has still not begun throwing and is still feeling pain in his elbow, according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.

The Phillies had hoped Cliff Lee could begin his throwing program as early as last week, but the wait continues.

"It’s still there a little bit," Lee said today about the discomfort in his left elbow. "It’s getting better."

Lee has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 19 with a strained elbow. He said he plans to join the team on its upcoming six-game road trip to Washington and Cincinnati, which begins Tuesday night against the Nationals at Nationals Park. He is hopeful he can begin his throwing program on the road.

"There’s a chance that could happen on this road trip," Ryne Sandberg said.

Obviously, the discomfort could go away in the next week, Lee could begin throwing shortly thereafter, and all would be right with the world.

But should circumstances go the other direction, should Lee need surgery to fix his elbow, Marquis would be there to give the Phils one more starting pitcher to add to the mix. Even a starter as mediocre as Marquis would be needed to fill a gap that big.

Hopefully, Lee will be fine and Marquis will simply slide into the rotation once the Phils trade one of their starting pitchers next month, assuming they don't go on a winning streak and get back into the race.

In the meantime, Amaro is likely just hedging his bets and grabbing another warm body in case disaster strikes.

***UPDATE***

In other news, the Phillies have recalled Ethan Martin and are sending Phillippe Aumont back down to the minors. Martin has the potential to be an above average relief pitcher, with a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and a biting slider that loses its effectiveness the longer he pitches.

In 10.2 innings at Triple-A, Martin posted an ERA of 1.69 with 11 strikeouts and 4 walks. Martin recently complained of a "dead arm" as he worked his way back from a shoulder injury at the start of spring training.

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