The wait for the season debut of Carlos Martinez could reach its end as early as this coming weekend.
Cardinals GM Mike Girsch and manager Mike Shildt both indicated Thursday that Martinez would meet up with the team in Arlington, Texas for its series against the Texas Rangers, which begins Friday. Martinez last pitched in a rehab assignment on Wednesday with the Cardinals Double-A affiliate in Springfield, experiencing an eventful two innings: 20 pitches, 14 strikes, four hits and an earned run allowed, along with a hit batter and two double plays.
He couldn’t help but make that outing a little interesting, but the Cardinals say Martinez has checked off all the boxes en route to his return to the roster. It seems pretty clear that the team believes he is good to go; St. Louis will obviously need to make a subtraction from the roster in order to add Martinez. Girsch indicated that the team will decide whose spot Martinez will take in that bullpen over the course of the next couple days, with the roster move likely coming Saturday.
Martinez’s 2019 was flagged for a false start from the beginning of spring training in February, the Cardinals describing a weakness in his pitching shoulder as the culprit. Though Martinez insisted at the time that he intended to rejoin the rotation, the team has since determined he will work out of the St. Louis bullpen for the time being upon his return.
Given Carlos Martinez's continued hints that he'd eventually like to return to the starting rotation (https://t.co/oAGFJWBFTo), I asked Mike Shildt this afternoon whether Carlos back to the #STLCards rotation at some point in 2019 would be possible. Here's what he said: pic.twitter.com/Pni3G9FoVF— Brenden Schaeffer (@bschaeffer12) May 16, 2019
Martinez’s past value as a starter has definitely been missed by the Cardinals so far this season, but the opportunity to tinker with the electric pitcher's role in that bullpen should be an enticing prospect for Shildt. The Cardinals manager indicated Thursday a willingness to use Martinez in back-to-back appearances and likely in a role geared toward late-inning situations. While Martinez may appear for an inning or an inning-plus at a time first on, Shildt feels he could be a good fit for two-inning outings as the season progresses.
If Martinez displays the kind of success he did late in 2018, when he held down a 1.47 ERA across 18.1 innings in 15 relief appearances, the Cardinals could be adding a dynamic force to their bullpen. Adding Martinez to John Brebbia (1.48 ERA), John Gant (1.90 ERA) and Jordan Hicks (1.88 ERA) should strengthen the Cardinals ability to lock down leads at the end of games.
Assuming the offense starts scoring enough runs to actually obtain a lead again, that is. The Cardinals currently trail the Braves in the rubber game of the series in Atlanta.
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