WASHINGTON -- Padres right-hander Jason Marquis, who pitched for the Nationals from 2010-11, returned to Nationals Park for the first time since then on Friday for the opener of a three-game series. He will start against his former club on Saturday.
Marquis was with the Nationals during a period of transition. They went 69-93 in 2010 and 80-81 the next year, during which Davey Johnson took over managerial duties from Jim Riggleman. Based on what he saw during that time, Marquis wasn't too surprised Washington broke out last year.
"To me, winning starts with pitching. Pitching and defense," Marquis said. "You throw guys like [Jordan Zimmermann], [Stephen] Strasburg, you traded for Gio Gonzalez -- when you throw those guys out there every five days, your chances of winning go through the roof. They've done a quality job of getting good young arms through the organization and outside the organization.
"Those pitchers have succeeded pretty well, and hopefully they lose three games here the next three days and then go back to winning."
Marquis said he "had a blast" while with Washington, where he signed as a free agent. Injuries limited the veteran to 13 ineffective starts that first year, when he went 2-9 with a 6.60 ERA. But he went 8-5 with a 3.95 ERA in '11, then was dealt to the D-backs just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline for Minor League shortstop Zach Walters, Washington's No. 13 prospect who is now at Triple-A Syracuse.
Marquis, 9-4 with a 3.74 ERA this season, remains in touch with some Nationals players and staff members. He said "it's fun to watch" how the team's young pitchers have developed and also spoke glowingly of catcher Wilson Ramos.
The two worked together after the Nationals acquired Ramos from the Twins in a July 2010 Deadline deal that sent Matt Capps to Minnesota. Ramos had a breakout year in '11, but since then has dealt with a kidnapping ordeal in his native Venezuela and an array of injuries.
"I loved throwing to him," Marquis said. "He was one of my favorite guys to throw to that I've been in the big leagues with, and he's strong as an ox. That guy's going to run into 20 home runs if he can stay healthy. That's just how strong he is. I think he can handle a big league staff with the best of them and he's got good guys to do that with."
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HitTheCutoff. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.