Marcum, for openers

Jays pitcher Shaun Marcum will open the 2010 season against the Rangers in Texas. (REUTERS/Steve...

Jays pitcher Shaun Marcum will open the 2010 season against the Rangers in Texas. (REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Shaun Marcum isn’t as tall as Roy Halladay, doesn’t throw as hard, doesn’t have anywhere near the pedigree, and never has garnered a Cy Young vote, much less won the award.

But Monday morning, when the Blue Jays announced that Marcum and his rebuilt elbow would be on the hill for opening day, April 5 against the Rangers in Texas, Marcum showed a decidedly better sense of humour than the departed Doc.

“I told Papi (pitching coach Bruce Walton): ‘I guess that no-hitter I threw in the cage yesterday must have got me a spot on the team,’ ” Marcum joked about the honour and the simulated game he threw Sunday following the Jays rainout.

“Then I come in today and get that news about opening day and you just look forward to that next start and work on things you need to work on to get ready for April 5.”

The last guy not named Halladay to open the season for the Jays was Chris Carpenter in 2002. But when you come right down to it and look at the possible candidates, there really was no other choice but Marcum, who has been with the Jays since 2005. Who else would you give the ball to? Sophomore Ricky Romero?

In 2008, Marcum was having a great season when elbow problems knocked him out for a month, from June 21 to July 22, and then the elbow blew out entirely and required Tommy John surgery that September. In 25 starts in 2008, he was 9-7 with a 3.39 ERA. In his career, he has all of 24 wins which goes a long way in demonstrating the youth and inexperience of the starting staff.

Still, following a year and a half of blood, sweat and tears in his rehab, comes Monday’s plum.

“It’s something special, we’ve had Doc for so long to do it,” Marcum said of getting the nod from manager Cito Gaston. “I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it. But it wasn’t my No. 1 priority. My No. 1 priority was to stay healthy and that’s the goal for this season, to stay healthy and make all my starts, go out there and pitch and give us a chance to win.”

He knows that by being slotted No. 1 in the rotation, there are added responsibilities attached that go beyond his performance on the mound.

“Absolutely,” he said. “You’ve got to be there for your teammates non-stop. You’ve got to talk to the young guys, help them out. That’s one thing I’ve talked to with the other guys already. Just trying to take a leadership role a little bit, help out with Papi and Aaron (Hill) and Vernon (Wells) and the other guys and try to communicate as best we can with each other and just have fun this year.”

As the top dawg in the rotation, Marcum will draw the creme de la creme of the opposition’s starters. Not to worry, said the 28-year-old right-hander from the Show Me state.

“In ’08 when I got off to such a good start, it seemed like I was facing a lot of

No. 1s. I was facing Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez and a lot of those guys,” Marcum said. “It seemed like I pitched better against those guys than I did the other guys. I don’t know what it was, if I felt I had to bear down a little bit more or when I was facing the 4, 5 guys I was taking breathers or what it was. But I look forward to the challenge.”

As for filling Halladay’s shoes and all that, Marcum looks at the cliche as yesterday’s news.

“We’ve turned that page, I know I have and I think a lot of the other guys have turned that page pretty much when everybody showed up in Florida,” he said. “For everybody we’ve put Doc in the past even though we learned a lot from him and we wish him the best of luck where he’s at but we’ve got to turn the page and do what we can for ourselves and this organization.”

Or as they say across the pond: “The king is dead, long live the king.”

mike.rutsey@sunmedia.ca


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