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Notes: Marcum considers adjustment

Notes: Marcum considers adjustment

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TORONTO -- For most of this season, Shaun Marcum has made a habit out of making things look easy on the mound. When the Blue Jays right-hander entered the starting rotation on May 13, he became an immediate savior to a struggling staff by mixing speeds and using a masterful command of the strike zone to his advantage.

But lately, things haven't gone quite as smoothly for the 25-year-old. After starting the season 9-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 18 starts, Marcum has fallen on tough times. He is 2-2 with an 8.49 ERA in his last five outings, and he has averaged just 4 2/3 innings per start in that span.

After Marcum was torched for eight runs on Tuesday night against the Yankees, he admitted that the grueling 162-game season may finally be taking its toll on his arm. Marcum ranks second on the Blue Jays with 151 1/3 innings pitched -- 73 more than he had last year during his rookie season.

Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg is one man, though, who doesn't believe that fatigue should be used as an excuse for Marcum's recent woes.

"You're talking about a guy who's got a little over 150 innings right now, and he's not a 21-year-old kid," Arnsberg said. "I can remember when I was younger, I was throwing 160-185 innings a year at 20-21 years old. Now, at 24-25, and we're worried about fatigue? Then that, to me, is a poor conditioning program."

After throwing at least six innings in 16 of his first 18 starts this season, Marcum has managed to pitch that deep into a game just once over his last five outings. He has had trouble keeping his pitches down, and the end result has been six home runs and 22 earned runs allowed over his last 23 1/3 inning pitched.

"In a normal year, you're going to have 60 more innings than you do right now," Arnsberg said. "If you're fatigued now, you leave the jury out for us as instructors, wondering, 'Can this guy take the brunt of 33-35 starts in a season?'"

With his spot in next year's starting rotation all but guaranteed, Marcum will have to take a different approach to his offseason workouts to prepare for a full season. Marcum said he plans to talk with Jays strength and conditioning coach Donovan Santas and staff ace Roy Halladay to determine what his proper workout strategy should be going forward.

"I've just got to go out there, work harder and do a lot more in the offseason," Marcum said. "I'll probably sit down and talk to Dono and Doc and see what they do in the offseason, because Doc is in such great shape right now. He's going out there and throwing 125 pitches, no problem, every start."

In the meantime, Marcum plans to cut back his bullpen sessions in between starts in an effort to get through the rest of the season. Instead of throwing a typical side session with 45-50 pitches, Marcum will either lower that number to approximately 25 or opt for a light catch instead.

Stairs back in the fold? Coming on the heels of a two-year contract extension for shortstop John McDonald, the Jays have begun contract talks with utility man Matt Stairs. Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi confirmed on Wednesday that he's already had a conversation with Stairs about returning next season, and he hopes to work something out in the near future.

"We want to get the ball rolling on talking about bringing him back," Ricciardi said. "Hopefully, we'll talk [again] later in the week. I think we've got the parameters to work within. Just like we did with Johnny Mac, I think there's a deal to be made there. Hopefully, we'll keep him here."

Stairs has been one of the few bright spots for the Jays' offense this season. The 39-year-old entered Wednesday hitting .309 with 59 RBIs, leading the team with a .381 on-base percentage. Despite having almost 300 fewer at-bats, Stairs, with 19 home runs, trailed right fielder Alex Rios by just four for the team lead.

Ricciardi declined to get into specifics of the negotiations, but the contract is expected to be for one year.

Super utility man in training: The Jays may have abandoned their hopes of having Russ Adams serve as their everyday shortstop, but that doesn't mean he's being left out of the club's long-term plans. With Toronto third baseman Troy Glaus scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on his left foot, the door has been opened for Adams to prove that he deserves a spot on the Major League roster next season.

Jays manager John Gibbons said that he envisions Adams as being the type of player who can come off the bench and help the team in a variety of ways. The 28-year-old has experience at all infield positions except first base, and Gibbons said that if he really needed to, he could use Adams in the outfield as well.

"We'll get a look at him at third base, now that Troy has gone down," Gibbons said. "He can play some second base, and he's played some short. [Utility man] would be a good role for him."

Minor matters: Left-hander Luis Perez threw 6 1/3 innings as Class A Auburn edged the Oneonta Tigers, 4-3, on Tuesday to reach the finals of the New York Penn League. Auburn will face the Brooklyn Cyclones in the championship series, which begins Thursday. ... Toronto's farm system finished the 2007 regular season with an overall record of 364-334. Including two Dominican Summer Leagues, the organization went 424-418, which ranked 15th out of all Major League organizations.

Did you know? Since Aug. 1, Stairs leads all American League players with a .405 (30-for-74) batting average.

Coming up: A.J. Burnett (8-7, 3.56 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound when the Jays close out their three-game series with the Yankees at 7:07 p.m. ET on Thursday at Rogers Centre. New York will counter with rookie right-hander Ian Kennedy (1-0, 2.25 ERA).

Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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