JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) -- Carlos Martinez, the last member of the 2016 rotation to get a start in spring training, finally got into a game Friday; bounding out to the mound with the energy of a little leaguer.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment all offseason. I’ve been working very hard to come back,” he said through translator Brayan Pena. “Today was a very exciting day. Thank God everything went my way.”
Martinez came out throwing in the high nineties, and looked loose despite dealing with a handful of baserunners over his two innings.
He threw 26 pitches, 19 for strikes. He allowed three hits a walk and a run, striking out two. Behind the plate was fellow spring rehabber Yadier Molina, who made his second Grapefruit League appearance.
“I was very happy to see him catching today because he knows me better than anybody else,” Martinez said. “Like I said, today was my first one so who better than him, the guy who really knows exactly what I do?”
The pair have trailed their teammates in February and early March, coming along slowly to avoid re-aggravating their injuries. Molina, working back from a twice-repaired left thumb ligament, has advanced through his goals like the Terminator. He has steadily hit checkpoint after checkpoint, never showing doubt or impatience with his progress.
The younger Martinez was not as self-assured early on.
“At the beginning I was a little afraid, I’m not going to lie to you guys. But I trusted the people who worked with me to get my strength back,” he said. “The more I was throwing, the stronger I was feeling, but I didn’t want to push it. I wanted to continue to believe in the process. I feel very good right now and I’m very happy with my recovery.”
His first start comes a week after throwing a live bullpen session that Adam Wainwright called “the best live BP I have ever seen.” The reason the Cardinal ace was so impressed was Martinez’s level of control. His body was in sync throughout his delivery, and the pitches were crisp and low in the zone.
Following his first start, Martinez was happy with that aspect of his performance, but is working to exhibit discipline in other areas as well. The 24 year old is focused on his emotions this spring, looking to find a balance of passion and patience.
“That’s how I like to pitch. That’s the way I like to go about my business. At the same time, I need to control myself a little more and I’m working on that. I just like to go out there and have fun and enjoy my game. It’s going to be a little hard for me to take that away from myself.” he said. “Sometimes I get too excited or over excited and that’s not good either. I have to find the fine balance between the two.”
Mike Matheny spoke pregame about harnessing the Martinez’s emotions, saying the goal is to keep Martinez more consistent from start to start without removing the element that allows him to thrive.
“We’ve had this conversation. We had the exact same one about Lance Lynn. About monitoring that balance of the enthusiasm and the aggressiveness, and the emotion with what’s keeping you from being consistent. He’s been making positive strides in figuring that out,” the manager said. “There’s some consistencies to guys who always seem to be having consistently good years. They look the same every outing. Those are the guys that are typically the league leaders and some of the top performers.”
Matheny, a former catcher with old-school-baseball disposition, has an interesting challenge in managing his young righty. Martinez pitches with a mixture of intensity and joy, and sterilizing that kills the battery fueling his talents. At the same time, emotions don’t remain the same from start to start, and depending on them to propel performance the same way every time is a recipe for volatility.
Martinez’s success this season will depend on his ability to harmonize rigid discipline and unbridled passion. If he can find the balance, he will elevate himself to a level of performance few, if any, in baseball can match.