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MESA, Ariz. — Over the past week, one of the questions being asked around Cubs spring training was: Where is Brailyn Marquez?
After just about every player had shown up to Chicago’s complex in Mesa, Arizona, Marquez had yet to show up. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and manager David Ross acknowledged that Marquez wasn’t at camp, but there weren’t many other answers beyond that.
On Monday, Marquez finally walked into the Cubs’ clubhouse and revealed why he’d been missing.
“I had a little bit of a delay in coming over here,” Marquez said through team translator Will Nadal. “I had COVID for a second time, so that’s kind of what affected me getting here to spring training on time. I had to do a quarantine back in my home country. That’s the reason why I’m here a little bit later.”
Marquez said he tested positive about two and a half weeks ago and was symptomatic. The timing of his positive case clearly didn’t match up well with the end of Major League Baseball’s lockout, forcing him to miss the first 10 days of camp. Now that he’s back with the team, though, Marquez is ready to get back into the swing of things.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity to contribute in any way possible for the team,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what position they need me. If they need me as a starter or as a reliever, any way that I can contribute again on the big league team, that’s what I’m looking to do.”
His recent bout with COVID-19 was his second time testing positive for the virus, which he also dealt with at the start of last spring training. When he attempted to ramp back up then, he suffered from some fatigue in his left shoulder. Those issues just didn’t go away, and 2021 turned into a lost season for Marquez.
Now that he’s in Mesa and ready to go, both Marquez and the Cubs are hoping those health issues stay in the rearview mirror.
“Some of the things that happened in the past, you never know what can kind of contribute to that,” Ross said. “There’s a lot of different factors, so we’re just going to take it from today and his offseason, communicate with him and get him ready for the season. We try not to look back too much around here.”
Coming back from a trying 2021 started at the beginning of the offseason, before the lockout. Ross said he and the coaching staff gave each player an idea of what the staff considers that player’s strengths and weaknesses, and then provided an idea of what the players should work on during the lockout, when the two sides couldn’t communicate.
Having already been through having to shut things down due to a COVID case before, Marquez said he’d learned how he needed to build up in case the same thing happened again. He said his shoulder fatigue issues could have come from trying to ramp back up after his first time dealing with the virus, but now that he’d gone through that process once, he was better equipped to go through it this time around.
“Since I had that last year already, I’ve had a full year just to continue to work on my body, build up,” Marquez said. “Make sure that, if this happened again, which it did, I’d be ready once I’d be able to start pitching again.”
Still, considering how Marquez’s last year has gone, the Cubs are going to take things slow with the 23-year-old.
Despite Marquez feeling healthy now, he hasn’t pitched regularly since 2019. He trained at the Cubs’ alternate site for most of 2020, but his only game action since ’19 was his first appearance for the Cubs on Sept. 27, 2020, in which he tossed a grand total of 2/3 of an inning.
Marquez was once as hyped up as any pitcher in Chicago’s system in recent memory, and despite pitching in only one game in over two years, he’s still right at the top of Cubs’ pitching prospect lists.
It’s unlikely that he’ll have a spot on the big league roster come Opening Day, as a trip to the minors is probably the best option for him to keep building himself up. A call-up could certainly happen at some point this year, but like many of the pitchers in camp right now, Chicago doesn’t plan on putting any rush on Marquez’s development.
“I think he’ll define that,” Ross said of Marquez’s potential role with the big league team. “I’m not ready to define that for him. Missed all of last season, like, let’s give this kid a chance to establish himself as a professional player.
“Gotten that little bit of taste in 2020, seen the things (he needs) to work on, then had some adversity last year. So let’s just give him the freedom to develop how he needs to develop and not put any labels on him.”
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