JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) – In his final preseason start of the spring, Carlos Martinez was absolutely deadly as he silenced the Mets’ bats over six innings en route to a 3-1 Cardinals win.
Martinez threw just 67 pitches in six innings, 49 of them for strikes. He gave up three hits and a run, didn’t walk anyone and fanned six. With what was then the tying run at third, he blew a 100 mph fastball past Yoenis Cespedes, a blistering pitch at which the Mets’ slugger waved feebly on the way by.
Mike Matheny said he was sitting with pitching coach Derek Lilliquist who saw Martinez pause before the pitch to Cespedes. “Lilly said ‘he’s going to try to blow it by him.” Cespedes, who is hitting .359 for the spring and had one of the hits off Martinez, never stood a chance.
Martinez moved the ball around the strike zone and used his breaking ball to perfection, as only a handful of batters were able to square him up with any authority.
“I didn’t try to overdo it today,” the maturing Martinez said through an interpreter. “I was more relaxed and I had my confidence up after the last start. I’ve learned to control the pace of the game so I know when to hold back a little and when to (go full out).”
When asked if he reached back for a little more on the Cespedes strikeout, Martinez smiled and said there was “no bad intention” in the blazing fastball he threw, admitting that he did want to win that battle.
“It was fun to watch him walk (Eric) Fryer through it today instead of (the other way around),” Matheny said. Fryer started in place of Yadier Molina who had a bruise on his toe suffered in the weight room. “He set the tone today and used it all.”
“I don’t think any of us are shocked watching him progress. His stuff is just …” the skipper said, leaving unsaid what Martinez made obvious. He also said Lilliquist and medical team put together program of training, exercise and diet for the 24-year-old, whose effects are easily evident.
Martinez said that his last performance gave him confidence that he is ready for the season, both physically and emotionally. After the last outing, he said he was very happy that he has learned to keep his emotions under control and not let anything disturb his focus. Monday, he said, he was intent on keeping up that performance.
Martinez also added the team will miss the presence of longtime coach Jose Oquendo, who announced he will take an indefinite leave as he rehabilitates his knee from two offseason surgeries. Martinez said Latin players in particular who may have had a bad day could go to Oquendo and draw upon his experience in handling difficult situations. Oquendo did tell players that they could reach out to him at any time.
Martinez will remain in Jupiter and throw on the back fields Saturday, which would normally be his next start, before flying to Pittsburgh to join the team for the Sunday opener in Pittsburgh against the Pirates.