Marquis makes most of busy day

Cardinals' Marquis makes most of busy day

ST. LOUIS -- It would have been a long day for Jason Marquis no matter what on Saturday. But when he arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport to find out that his flight to St. Louis had been canceled, the challenge was multiplied.

Marquis finally made it to the 10th annual Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up, though not until more than an hour of his scheduled autograph-signing time had passed. He stuck around for a while extra obliging fans, met with the media and then headed right back to the airport to fly back to Newark again.

"Long day," said Marquis. "I woke up at five this morning to catch a 7 o'clock flight. I get to the airport, and the flight is canceled. So I hopped on the 1:30 flight, which was the next available. I got here at 3:30, and I fly out tonight at seven. So, a long day."

Not a bad one, though. Marquis was in good spirits, even though he remains unsigned for the 2006 season. The right-hander is eligible for arbitration, and the date to exchange figures is coming up next week.

According to general manager Walt Jocketty, the odds are good for avoiding arbitration, but no agreement is imminent. Marquis is represented by Seth and Sam Levinson, who have a long history of dealings with the Cardinals.

Marquis isn't necessarily looking to avoid arbitration, but neither is he picking a fight with the club.

"Me and my representatives are sitting down talking about it, and we want what's right and that's what it comes down to," Marquis said. "There's really been no argument or debate. It's been a good process.

"I'm not saying [an arbitration hearing] is the best or the worst place for it, but if it comes down to it -- that's what it takes -- that's what I'm going to do. I trust my representatives to tell me what's going on. I believe in them to tell me what my market value is. I stand behind them, and if it takes going to arbitration, that's what we'll do."

The Cardinals are looking to avoid arbitration for the seventh year in a row. They haven't actually gone to a hearing with a player since 1999, when they won their case against left-handed pitcher Darren Oliver.

Reinforcements? Jocketty said that while he's fairly comfortable with his team as it currently stands, the Cardinals are still looking at the possibility of adding one more right-handed reliever. Felix Rodriguez is one possibility, and Jeff Nelson is another.

According to the GM, if a deal is not struck in the relatively near future, the Cards will simply go to camp with what they have.

"Either we will or we won't this week," he said. "It's getting too late. Guys want to get signed."

Not missing Mazatlan: For the first time he can recall, John Gall didn't play winter baseball this year. Instead, he's dedicated his offseason to physical conditioning and training rather than playing for Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific League.

"It's an awesome adjustment to be able to do it [this way]," Gall said Saturday. "Because I haven't really been able to concentrate on getting my body in shape like this, ever. I've got a great setup at home. Myself, Eric Byrnes, we work together five days a week, sometimes even six days."

Where exactly Gall fits in on the 2006 Cardinals remains to be seen. The club doesn't have a set backup for Albert Pujols at first base, which might benefit him. On the flipside, the outfield picture is quite crowded. Still, after getting a taste of the Major Leagues for the first time in 2005, Gall will go to Spring Training with more hope of making the Opening Day roster than ever before.

"I think the exciting part, for me, of this year, is that anything is possible," he said. "And I really believe that. I can say that all I want to myself, and I've said it before to myself going into Spring Training, but I really sincerely believe it. That's really exciting, and that's given me added motivation."

Spoken like a veteran: If rookie Anthony Reyes was upset at the signing of Sidney Ponson to compete with him for a rotation spot, he's not letting on. Reyes, who was considered the favorite for the No. 5 job before Ponson was brought into the fold, said he welcomes the challenge.

"I knew this wasn't going to be easy," Reyes said. "It's just another thing. I have to work in the offseason and try to come prepared and ready to fight for that job.

"I love competition. I wouldn't have it any other way. Stuff like this just makes me work harder and motivates me to do everything a lot better. Hopefully I can get that job."

If Reyes doesn't make the rotation, it's unclear where he will go. He might be sent to the bullpen, or he might head back to Triple-A Memphis to continue amassing innings as a starter. As far as the USC product is concerned, that's an easy choice.

"I'm approaching this year that hopefully my jersey will still be hanging up at the end of Spring Training," said Reyes.

Rolen update: Head athletic trainer Barry Weinberg checked in on Saturday, expressing optimism about the status of rehabbing third baseman Scott Rolen. Weinberg said Rolen has begun swinging a bat and may ramp up his hitting within a couple of weeks. Rolen is not expected to face significant restrictions at the start of Spring Training, but Weinberg said the medical staff reserves the right to back him off some if need be.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.