Hint: don't believe in coincidences when judging the actions of the St. Louis Cardinals. Especially in March.
The Cards have gone out of their way to put Martinez with Molina at every step. Their lockers are right next to each other - normally pitchers and position players are on separate ends of the clubhouse. But, alas, #18 and #4 are right next to each other this year.
Then the first time Martinez throws live BP he's also throwing to Molina? Not Tony Cruz, Ed Easley or any of the other six catchers in camp? Heck, Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Marco Gonzales were also throwing that day. Molina easily could've caught any number of them.
But he was paired with Martinez. That's not an accident, no matter what Mike Matheny says.
This offseason has been a very hard one for the Dominican Republic native. He had his best friend, Oscar Taveras, killed in a car accident where he was drinking and driving. He had his name come up subsequently in numerous trade rumors to address the void in right field created by Taveras' death.
All Martinez has ever wanted was a chance to start. It's his dream. He believes it's his destiny.
The Cardinals are going out of their way to give him that chance. They refused to part with Martinez, now wearing Taveras' #18 jersey in his honor, in a trade. Shelby Miller was the one jettisoned to acquire Jason Heyward. They wanted to give their once prized prospect a legitimate chance to be a starter.
Like a lot of really good young pitchers his path to the starting rotation has been complicated by being so valuable in the bullpen. A lot of times teams will put a prospect in relief in the big leagues to get them acclimated. But when they have success there sometimes the team simply refuses to move them to the starting rotation for fear of messing with a good thing.
Martinez was so dominant in the 2013 postseason - 11 strikeouts in just over 12 innings of work - they didn't want to mess with him the next year. In a battle with Joe Kelly for the opening in the starting rotation it was always Kelly destined to win that job.
Once injuries started to settle in with Kelly and eventually Michael Wacha the Cards attempted to give the young fireballer a chance to start. But by that point he'd been so overworked in relief things didn't go well. Opponents hit .294 off of him in 126 at-bats.
But this is a new year. Martinez is now 23-years old. He's accomplished more in the big leagues by this age than most people have. There won't be any craziness this time around moving him from one role to another. He's a starter from beginning to end.
And the Cards can't wait to find out how good this young man can be.