Marson undeterred by demotion
Phils' top catching prospect determined to keep improving
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Lou Marson genuinely seemed to welcome the news.
"Hey, this doesn't make me a bad guy," he said with a smile Monday morning at Bright House Field.
The Phillies optioned Marson to Minor League camp, which made sense to both parties. Carlos Ruiz is the Phils' everyday catcher, and Chris Coste and Ronny Paulino are battling for the backup job.
Playing time had become scarce for Marson. He hadn't played since last Wednesday.
"I'm moving up a level," Marson said. "I know I got called up in September, but I was in Double-A the whole year. I'm moving up a level. That's all I can ask for. There are a lot of guys that would like to be in my situation, playing every day. I can't complain at all. I'm happy about it."
Philadelphia thinks Marson has a bright future. He hit .314 with five home runs and 46 RBIs last season for Double-A Reading. A September callup, he homered in his first Major League start on the final day of the regular season.
Ruiz hit just .219 last season. Coste is 36. If Marson continues to improve this year in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, he could push Ruiz as early as next season for the starting job.
"[It] depends what kind of season he has and how good he does and how quickly he can improve," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said, asked how quickly Marson can be an everyday catcher in the big leagues.
But other teams like Marson, too. The Red Sox are looking for catching help and have been talking to the Phillies about Marson, who Baseball America considers the No. 3 prospect in the organization. The Boston Globe reported that the Phils are asking for right-hander Clay Buchholz or right-hander Daniel Bard, who is ranked fourth in Boston's system, in a potential Marson deal, but the Red Sox consider the price too steep.
Of course, the Phillies probably consider anything less for Marson not enough.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. declined comment.
To get to the next level and challenge Ruiz, the Phils want to see Marson improve his throwing from behind the plate. He said he has developed some bad habits and is working to correct them.
The Phillies also want to see Marson pull more pitches thrown to the inner half of the plate.
"I'm big on trying to see the ball as long as I can," Marson said. "I think that's going to come with time and more at-bats. That's something that doesn't happen overnight. When I started putting up numbers, I was in Clearwater in the Florida State League. I really focused on hitting the ball hard up the middle, staying inside the ball. That's what's made me successful so far."
And if Marson can start pulling those inside pitches?
"You'll see him hit with some power," Manuel said.
Marson is open to anything.
"I'm just trying to make this team," the young catcher said. "I'm 22 years old. I still have a lot of time to improve, mature and get better. I feel I've learned a lot about myself. But I've got to go there and put up numbers. They're not going to hand anything to me. I've got to stay healthy and play well."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.