Not so fast: Matheny praises Martinez on maturation, success under pressure

Not so fast: Matheny praises Martinez on maturation, success under pressure

Not so fast: Matheny praises Martinez on maturation, success under pressure

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by JJ Bailey and Doug Vaughn / BaseballStL

KMOV.com

Posted on October 14, 2013 at 5:31 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 16 at 4:31 PM

(BaseballStL) -- The Cardinals have been betting a lot on young arms, and they continue answer the call. 

One of the youngest arms on the team is Carlos Martinez, a fire-throwing righty that has worked out of the bullpen in the postseason. 

Despite being barely 22, Martinez has drawn praise from manager Mike Matheny. 

"As far as emotions go, Carlos has been very consistent," Matheny said Monday. "I think he's done a nice job for a young player being pretty consistent on the mound. That hasn't really been an issue."

Martinez never made it to spring training this year because of visa problems. He spent most of this season in the minor leagues but now, in high pressure situations with the season on the line, the 22-year-old Dominican has become one of Matheny's "go to" guys in the late innings.

He pitched two scoreless innings in the Game 4 win over the Dodgers.

"We asked a little more of him today,” Matheny said after the Game 4 win. “We got to a point where we had a couple right-handers and a tough lefty in the middle when we were stuck in a spot. We need to come in with our best.”

Martinez didn't look like one of the Cardinals best earlier in the season. He had bouts of wildness at the big league level, but got straightened out at AAA Memphis. 

Through an interpreter, Martinez said, “I always thought I would be at this position at this level and, thank God, I was able to maintain my focus going down and coming back up and maintain the faith of the manager.”

The Redbird skipper did say his young hurler had to learn lessons about major league batters early on, and his ability to adapt helped him move into the high pressure roles.  

"Talk about loose and free and easy and able to hit a hundred. It's pretty amazing how the ball jumps out of his hand," Matheny said. "He can fall in love with that pitch, but he's also seen that hitters at this level can hit those if you don't have something else."

Matheny said it's something that many of his young pitchers have had to adjust to elevated skill levels. With several of them throwing mid 90s and above, the young Cardinals have had to develop new approaches. 

"Unfortunately, these guys come up through their system and their amateur career blowing the ball by everybody. I imagine that's pretty fun on the mound," the manager said. "That begins to kind of develop and define how they pitch."

For pitchers like Martinez, it has been crucial to develop a second pitch. As his appearances increased, so did his use of a breaking pitch, something that has drawn praise from the staff. 

"Derek Lilliquist and Blaise Ilsley have done a nice job helping him understand how to use that; and obviously, Yadier behind the plate to give him a good idea when to throw what," Matheny said. "But overall, he's matured a lot as a pitcher this year, and there are even better things ahead for him."

One of those things may be an NLCS championship. Martinez has not allowed a run in his last four appearances totaling 4.1 innings. He's given up just one hit in that time.

He also proved he has mean pick-off move, catching Nick Punto off second base in a key moment in Game 4. Matheny's confidence in his hard throwing rookie led him to allow Martinez to go two complete innings for the first time in more than a month. 

"Thank God I was able to maintain that presence and focus to carry out that responsibility," he said. 

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JJ Bailey covers the Cardinals for KMOV.com and the BaseballStL app. Follow him on twitter @TheJJBailey and on @baseballstl_app for updates.  

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