Marshall a strong clubhouse presence for Reds
Left-hander never pouted when he was replaced as closer last season
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When given the news last May that his tenure as Reds closer would end to make way for Aroldis Chapman, left-hander Sean Marshall did not pout or take any disappointment to the mound with him.
Marshall simply, and quietly, went back to work in the set-up role for which he was already accustomed. More importantly, he was successful at it, and became an indispensable part of a bullpen that had the Major League's lowest ERA (2.65).
"The guy that was pitching in the eighth (Chapman) was striking out everybody and I was kind of scratching my head," Marshall said. "It was probably inevitable. It didn't fluster me at all. I liked going back to my seventh and eighth inning role I knew I've been good at. I enjoyed closing, and if they need me, I will be ready for them again."
While the Reds have a roster not lacking in good clubhouse character guys, it is short on veterans with long tenures. The oldest player on the 40-man roster is 36-year-old Bronson Arroyo and two other highly respected veterans -- Scott Rolen and Miguel Cairo are no longer playing.
Reds manager Dusty Baker understands that leadership can't always come from his office. Baker saw how Marshall helped teammates behind the scenes in his first season in Cincinnati after he was acquired from the Cubs for three players in a Dec. 23, 2011, trade.
"Marshall is big in this equation," Baker said. "I never had a captain. They are anointed by the players, not by me. Just watch who they gravitate towards."
At 30 years old and standing 6-foot-7, Marshall is a presence. He also has seven seasons in the big leagues, and has pitched in virtually every role -- from starter, to long reliever, to situational lefty, to setting up, to closing. He knows plenty of hitters, and the league in general.
"Marsh was one of the guys who helped make it more comfortable for me and showed me the ropes," said reliever J.J. Hoover, who was a rookie last season.
Because Marshall often spends games in the bullpen far away from the dugout, it's more complicated for him to be a leader. He can't offer much of the rah-rah cheering that happens during the ebb and flow of a game. What he can offer is more substantial, however.
"If I can share what I've learned so far with some players and my teammates and lead by example, I would love to do that," Marshall said. "It's a nice thing for the manager to say about someone. I feel like, given my experience and the multiple roles that I've had -- I've pitched in the bullpen and started -- I can add some insight and experience to younger players and tell them what to expect from pitching in certain roles. I can provide some examples and guidance in that way."
With Rolen and Cairo gone, Marshall doesn't see a leadership void on the Reds.
"Those guys were veteran guys and outstanding individuals that led by example," Marshall said. "If I'm able to fill in some big shoes that were left open, I'd be more than happy to. But we have some quiet leaders. Guys like Joey [Votto] are not very outspoken in the clubhouse, but he leads by example with his work ethic and preparation for each game. As far as the pitching staff, guys like Bronson have had multiple years of experience and have won a World Series. They can also use their experience and lead by example."
Marshall became the closer out of necessity when Ryan Madson suffered a season-ending elbow injury. While he lacked the shutdown fastball of Chapman, and isn't known as a strikeout pitcher, he finds ways to get outs.
In a staff-leading 73 appearances in 2012, Marshall was 5-5 with a 2.51 ERA, 16 walks and 74 strikeouts over 61 innings.
From the day Chapman replaced him as closer on May 20, until June 9, Marshall retired 15 batters in a row. His first 10 appearances in that span (7 1/3 innings) were hitless.
In his final 13 appearances of the season, Marshall did not give up a run.
"[The other bullpen guys] can learn a lot about his demeanor," Baker said. "Nothing seems to bother him, which I think is a must for late-inning game relievers. You have to pretend, and not show any source of fear or anxiety or anything late in the game. Hitters feed off of that. They feed off of fear."
Anxiety of any kind is the furthest from Marshall's mind this spring. He was given a three-year, $16.5 million contract extension during Spring Training last year, and has the feeling of being established in Cincinnati.
Marshall and his wife, Sarah, feel at home with their nearly two-year-old son, Brody, and have found a place to live on Cincinnati's eastside.
"I'm settled in," Marshall said. "I had been to Cincinnati a lot on visiting trips. I had never strayed from downtown. It's a beautiful city and there are a lot of good, nice people. It's a nice place to live, especially if you have a family. I learned a lot about the area. We would drive around different neighborhoods, especially on off days, to feel them out and look for a place to live."
This spring, Marshall has two scoreless innings in two appearances. He expects the bullpen to build on the 2012 results, which would be essential for the Reds to repeat as National League Central winners.
"Whether Chapman is out there or in the rotation, we still have a great core group like last year," Marshall said of the bullpen. "I had a ton of fun with them last year. I plan on it being the same this year or even better."