Marcum was informed that the Jays had optioned him to Triple-A Syracuse to give the starter a chance to sort through some persistent control problems. Toronto firmly believes that it still has time to gain ground in the race for the American League Wild Card, and the club simply can't afford any prolonged slumps over the remainder of the season.
That being the case, the Jays decided it was best to send Marcum to the Minor Leagues rather than have him risk hindering the rotation down the stretch. If Toronto is going to catch the Wild Card-leading Red Sox, the club desperately needs Marcum to return to his dominant first-half form.
"We've got some chance here to catch these guys," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "We want to put the best possible group out there that we can right now. He's just been struggling throwing strikes, so we want to just let him go down there and work out some of the kinks."
The Blue Jays recalled left-hander John Parrish from Triple-A to take Marcum's spot on the active roster. Left-hander David Purcey is scheduled to take Marcum's turn in the rotation on Wednesday against the Rays, and Parrish will start for Toronto in the finale of a three-game set against Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Marcum, 26, has made seven starts for the Jays since returning from a month-long stint on the disabled list on July 22 following a bout with a right elbow injury. In those outings, he has gone 3-2 with an uncharacteristic 6.19 ERA and a .295 opponents' batting average. Along the way, Marcum has compiled 23 strikeouts and 16 walks across 36 1/3 innings.
Prior to landing on the DL, Marcum was one of the top starter's in the AL, posting a 2.65 ERA while limiting hitters to a .198 average over 15 starts. He struck out 86 and walked just 27 over 98 2/3 innings and logged at least six innings in each of his starts, with the exception of a rain-shortened outing on May 18.
"He's had seven outings since he's come back off the DL," Ricciardi said, "and he hasn't really located the ball really well. He really hasn't been himself, so we're going to give him a couple starts down at Triple-A to just see if he can get his mechanics back together."
"Physically, there's nothing wrong. We wouldn't send the guy down if he was hurt."
Marcum is at his best when he pitches to contact, creating a lot of strikes and allowing him to last deep into starts. Over his first 15 outings this year, he averaged 14.8 pitches per inning and allowed 29 earned runs in the process. In his last seven starts, Marcum has averaged 16.8 pitches per frame and has yielded 25 earned runs.
On Friday, Marcum picked up a loss against the Red Sox after giving up five runs on six hits in just 3 2/3 innings, throwing 77 pitches in the effort. Prior to that start, he was 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA over three appearances, which was a drastic contrast to the 0-1 record and 9.82 ERA he fashioned in his first three outings off the DL.
On Aug. 6, Marcum appeared to be back on the right path, limiting the Oakland A's to one run on three hits with seven strikeouts over seven innings. In the three starts since that trip up the hill, though, Marcum toiled through 271 pitches over just 14 2/3 innings -- a sign that something simply wasn't right.
"The good outing he had was against Oakland," Ricciardi said. "I thought he looked like he was starting to turn the corner, but he scuffled in Boston throwing strikes with a 10-run lead [on Aug. 17] and that's not him. If you know him, he usually pounds the strike zone.
"Shaun's got to be more of a strike one, strike two guy. I think he's got to establish his fastball more and be able to pitch that way. That's his game."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.