Marquis back, but will join Twins later

The righthander spent two weeks in New York tending to his injured daughter. The club hopes he'll be ready for the rotation by mid-April.

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Jason Marquis, shown earlier in spring training, rejoined the team on Tuesday.

Photo: Charles Krupa, Associated Press - Ap

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FORT MYERS, FLA. - Righthander Jason Marquis will not start the season with the major league club. He has missed two weeks of spring training waiting for his 7-year-old daughter, Reese, to open her eyes.

Marquis has been with his wife, Debbie, at their home in Staten Island, N.Y. after their daughter was seriously injured in a bicycle accident.

Baseball had to take a back seat, although he did throw off a mound when he could.

"She was sedated for nine days," he said, declining to discuss her specific injuries. "I couldn't leave until I saw her eyes, heard her voice. Baseball is able to give me a mental break. I wouldn't be around here for 13 years if baseball wasn't an escape. Obviously this is the worst thing I've ever been through in my life, but you do go through other hardships throughout your career, and you get on the mound, and in the clubhouse, it sort of eases your mind a little bit."

The plan now is for him to build up enough arm strength to enter the Twins rotation sometime this month.

"She's making a lot of progress; everything's going in the right direction," Marquis said of his daughter. "... The initial four or five days were a nightmare, something that no parent should ever live through.

"But with the support we've had from friends, families and the team of doctors they put on her, from the nurses to the support of the Twins ... I've seen a lot of positive energy flow to her, and really help her."

Although Marquis didn't want to divulge many details about the accident, he made it clear that it was serious.

"Ultimately, there was just a lot of internal bleeding, that luckily enough, my wife and father-in-law were able to get her to the hospital in time, and like I said, I had an unbelievable team of doctors there to save my daughter's life,'' he said.

Marquis, who signed with the Twins as a free agent during the offseason, tried to stay in shape while he was away from camp. He threw two simulated games against local amateurs while in New York, one consisting of 78 pitches and another of 93 pitches. He said he tried to get other workouts in between trips to the hospital.

The Twins plan to be careful with Marquis, who was unable to do many drills and didn't face other professional hitters. On Tuesday, Marquis threw on a back field to Twins minor leaguers as General Manager Terry Ryan, manager Ron Gardenhire and other club officials looked on.

"He came back in good shape," Ryan said. "It was encouraging. He threw 54 pitches; the majority were strikes. He used all his stuff. Now we'll see how he feels tomorrow."

There's no chance he'll be able to pitch for the Twins right away. Fortunately for the team, they don't need a fifth starter until April 15 against Texas. Righthanders Carl Pavano, Liam Hendriks and Nick Blackburn and lefthander Francisco Liriano will make up the rotation until then. Righthander Scott Baker will open the season on the disabled list because of a sore elbow, but is not expected to be out for long.

Gardenhire said it appeared Marquis "really wanted to pitch nine innings today, and I think a lot of that was on adrenaline."

The Twins will break camp after Wednesday's exhibition against Class A Fort Myers, then head to Baltimore to open the season Friday. Marquis could be sent to the minors for a start or two.

Coincidentally, the Twins need a fifth starter right before they open a four-game series in New York on April 16, which Marquis is eyeing as four days to be with his daughter.

As he stood and talked with reporters Tuesday, Marquis still wore the wristband the hospital fitted him with when he first went to see his daughter.

"Obviously I know in a big-league game, I'd have to take it off," he said, "but I'm going to try to keep it on until my daughter gets out of the hospital."

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