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Rockies’ German Marquez wants to win a Cy Young, but much work remains

German Marquez has said it before and he said it again Friday.

He believes he can win a National League Cy Young Award.

Informed that catcher Elias Diaz told reporters Marquez had the talent to win the award some day, the Rockies’ right-hander didn’t shy away.

“It’s one of my goals,” Marquez said. “I have been working (on it) for four or five years. I feel like if I can stay healthy, I can do it.”

Marquez, who turns 26 on Monday, certainly has the excellent stuff: a lively 96 mph fastball, a nasty 87 mph slider and a 83 mph knuckle curve that baffles batters. Since 2018, his 373 missed swings on curves ranks third in the majors.

But he has work to do if he’s ever going to reach his lofty goal. Last year, Marquez led the NL with 81 2/3 innings pitched while going 4-6 with a 3.75 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He struck out 73 and walked only 25, but his strikeout rate (8.04/nine innings, 28th best in the majors) and walk rate (2.76, 27th) were not at elite levels.

Plus, his homeroad splits remain dramatic. Last season, his ERA was 2.06 on the road but 5.68 at Coors Field. There is, however, a caveat to that ugly number at Coors in 2020. The Astros ambushed Marquez for 10 earned runs on 10 hits in just five innings on Aug. 20. Toss out that meltdown and Marquez’s home ERA was 3.81.

Still, over his career, Marquez owns a 3.51 road ERA vs. a 5.10 ERA at Coors, where he usually has at least one bad performance that skews his stats. In 2019, for example, San Francisco ripped him for 11 earned runs on 11 hits in a mere 2 2/3 innings, as the Giants romped, 19-2.

Statistics aside, manager Bud Black believes Marquez is establishing a reputation as one of the game’s best pitchers.

“The thing that I like is managers and coaches around the league realize his talent,” Black said. “When other managers, coaches and players start talking about German Marquez with the other starting pitchers in the league — the good ones — then you know he’s arrived.”

Freeland’s lament. Lefty Kyle Freeland finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting in 2018 when he went 17-7 with a 2.82 ERA. After a miserable 2019 season (6.73 ERA, 25 homers given up in 104 1/3 innings), Freeland rebounded in a big way last season (4.33 ERA).

Still, the season finale at Arizona, in which he surrendered six earned runs in 2 1/3 innings in an 11-3 loss, motivated him over the offseason.

“No one wanted to end the season on that,” Freeland said. “I definitely didn’t want to go into the offseason with that bad taste in my mouth.”

Fresh start. Right-handed reliever Robert Stephenson, acquired from Cincinnati as part of the Jeff Hoffman trade in late November, is eager to show what he can do.

“I was obviously very disappointed with last season and it definitely was not the season I wanted to have and certainly not the season that everybody would have liked to have in baseball — period,” said Stephenson, who is out of minor league options. “I feel like I could definitely do better. So I think this year will be a good start for me.”

Stephenson, who turns 28 Wednesday, was the Reds’ first-round draft pick (27th overall) in 2011. Like Hoffman with the Rockies, the Reds wanted him to be part of the rotation. In fact, he started 22 of his first 37 big-league appearances from 2016-18 before becoming a reliever 2019. That season, Stephenson went 3-2 with a 3.76 ERA in 57 appearances with 81 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings. Last year, however, he struggled, in part because of a mid-back strain, and finished with a 9.90 ERA in 10 appearances.

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