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Chris Marrero taking assignment back to Single-A Potomac Nationals in stride
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By RICH CAMPBELL
BY RICH CAMPBELL
WOODBRIDGE--Chris Marrero's master plan for reaching the major leagues did not include taking batting practice for the Potomac Nationals on the eve of Opening Day. The 15th overall draft pick in 2006 hoped--at the very least--to be in the highest levels of the minor leagues by now.
Yet here was Marrero, one of the Washington Nationals' top prospects, inside the batting cage yesterday at windswept Pfitzner Stadium launching balls over the outfield fence and into the woods.
His fast track to the majors took a detour last June when he broke his right fibula and tore ankle ligaments while sliding into home plate. Nine months later, he's eager to resume his climb to the big leagues, even if it means doing so from Single-A Potomac instead of a higher level.
"I'm not the one who makes the decisions," Marrero said regarding his assignment to Potomac. "But wherever I'm at, I'm going to play 100 percent. I want to have fun where I'm at. We have a great team here and guys that I really haven't played with. I look forward to playing with the guys we have on the team here."
Considering the path Marrero was blazing to the big leagues before his injury, it wouldn't be a surprise for him to speak those words through clenched teeth. But he feels no bitterness. After missing so much valuable time, he simply wants to play baseball again.
Marrero, 20, entered last season ranked as the Nationals' top prospect by Baseball America magazine. He led Washington's farm system in 2007 with 88 RBIs at two Single-A levels, and he was named to the South Atlantic league all-star game.
He started slowly in 2008, but he batted .352 in the 14 games that preceded his injury and accumulated 11 homers in 70 games. It was easy to see him finishing the year at Double-A Harrisburg or Triple-A Columbus, and the Nationals, in a way, were counting on it.
With the contracts of incumbent big league first basemen Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young set to expire after this season, Marrero was a prime candidate to be Washington's starting first baseman in 2010.