(BaseballStL) — Carlos Martinez made his return to the big leagues Monday night, appearing much sharper than when he left.
The 22-year-old threw two innings on 24 pitches, striking out two and allowing one hit.
“He came back very motivated to do something different than he did the time before,” Mike Matheny said. “Timing couldn’t have been better.”
Martinez worked the sixth and seventh innings, relieving starter Justin Masterson after he surrendered four runs to lose the lead in the fifth. Afterward, Masterson credited Martinez with turning the game.
“That was probably the biggest play of the game,” he said. “For him to come in there, give the guys a little extra confidence going in.”
Catching Martinez was A.J. Pierzynski. The two had never worked together before the sixth inning, something the new Cardinal backstop has grown accustomed to.
“It wasn’t the first time I’d done it. Obviously it’s happened a lot this year,” he chuckled. “He looked good, he threw strikes, threw multiple pitches for strikes. He looked good out there to me.”
Matheny said Pierzynski called a few pitches the club hadn’t seen Martinez use much all season, something that may have helped the young righty.
“A.J. made him use a couple pitches we hadn’t seen him use,” the manager said. “His change up looked good, his fastball was lively.”
Pierzynski had a general idea of Martinez’s stuff from conversations with Tony Cruz, Ted Lilliquist and Matheny, but during the game he just went with what felt right.
“I just went with what I thought were his strengths and he executed them. Other than to the pitcher, he threw really good pitches,” he said.
Mike Leake had the solitary hit in Martinez’s two innings of work, picking up a double on the only pitch the reliever shook Pierzynski on.
“I wasn’t reluctant to call anything. Those were the only two innings I’ve really seen him throw so I’m not reluctant to call anything,” Pierzynski said. “I can’t speak for anyone but myself, I mean I don’t know him. I don’t know what happened before so I’m just going with whatever I feel are the best pitches to get guys out with.”
If Martinez can remain effective, it would provide some much-needed stability late in games. With Kevin Siegrist still searching for his form and Trevor Rosenthal riding out a tumultuous stretch, the Cardinals could sorely use another steady presence in the pen.