(BaseballStL) — The Cardinals promised Carlos Martinez after Joe Kelly took the fifth rotation spot that he’d get a shot at taking the game ball when opportunity presented itself.
Opportunity knocked, and Monday Martinez will get his shot.
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With Adam Wainwright sidelined by a sore elbow, the 22-year-old was tapped to make the start in the series opener with the Mets. There were a few candidates to take the hill, and GM John Mozeliak said before Sunday’s game the decision was made based on a comprehensive view of the club.
“A lot of it is circumstantial, if you look at how things were lining up in Memphis and when,” he said. Tim Cooney was prime candidate for a spot start, but had already been bumped back a day to make room for Tyler Lyons’ rehab assignment. Because of this, Mozeliak felt it was best not to tinker with the Memphis rotation.
“His start day is today. Technically he was supposed to start yesterday but Lyons took that and I just don’t want to mess with some of these younger guys if we don’t have to,” he said. “Now if there is a need, this takes precedent but I just want to see how this plays out in the short term.”
Martinez made four starts this spring, going 1-0 with a 2.81 ERA. A starting pitcher at heart, the hard-throwing righty has been used out of the bullpen, primarily in late-game situations. Despite eyeing the role hungrily, he was uncharacteristically subdued when told he would get his chance.
“He goes, ‘that’s fine,’” Mike Matheny smiled, retelling the meeting he had with Martinez. “I made him redo that. I told him he gets a do over. ‘I’m going to tell you all over again and you’re going to give me a different answer.’ Then he smiled and gave me a better answer.”
Matheny has presided over several debuts and career-firsts this season, and has repeatedly said he encourages his players to enjoy the moment. With a roster full of young arms all trying to stay level-headed, elation can sometimes get left behind.
“They want to put up this bravado that ,’you give me whatever, I’ll take care of it.’ But there’s emotion in this game, I’m not the best about it, but I expect these guys to be better than me about showing the emotion and smiling and being happy,” Matheny said, cracking a smile and thinking of Martinez’s do-over reaction. “He’s a hugger. A lot like Waino. I don’t hold him back on that.”
With Martinez’s tremendous talent comes a self-assuredness that has impressed even seasoned major-leaguers this season. Because of this, there is little concern he would be overwhelmed by the moment. Rather, the trouble may be in the other direction; an overeagerness to prove readiness.
“He is so- it’s not arrogance, it’s just genuine confidence that, ‘ok you guys give me a chance, just wait, you’re going to see this.’ That’s part of the beauty of Carlos’ make up. He’s going to be excited,” Matheny said. “We can see how that could affect a younger player in a negative way too. It’s not fear of failure, it’s the excitement to perform. We’ll just need to keep him even-keeled so he can be his best.”
Mozeliak said before Sunday’s game Martinez will likely have a leash of 50-60 pitches, something he has recently been building toward with a series of longer outings out of the pen. The skipper agreed, and said the staff will be watching the tread on the tires more than the miles on the odometer.
“I think it’s just how hard he works. We’ve already thrown him into a couple longer relief roles where he threw 40 or so pitches so we’re comfortable stretching him a little bit,” he added.