The smile and enthusiasm is still there for Carlos Martinez. But entering his sixth season with the St. Louis Cardinals, the right-hander is challenging himself to improve his game.
“It’s a new season–I’ve got a new mentality, a new focus,” stated Martinez. “I’m gonna be more focused than last year. This year I’m going to try and help myself, everything when I go to the mound, when I go to the plate–if I need some runs, I’m going to put the ball on the field and I want to see the team in the post season this year.”
In 2017, Martinez hurled the first two complete games, both shutouts, of his career and passed the 200 innings (205) mark for the first time. But he’s looking beyond the numbers for himself and the team.
“Last year was crazy because the team was like in between–sometimes up, sometimes down,” said Martinez. “But I have confidence in the team this year because we have a lot of power, we’ve got new pitchers, we’ve got Alex Reyes coming back, and I think we’re going to be good this year.”
Of course, much of that power he refers to belongs to his friend in the locker next to him, Marcell Ozuna.
“The first time I saw him in St. Louis at the Winter Warm-Up, he told me when he came here it felt like family,” shared Martinez. “He tried to sign with the Cardinals when he was a little kid and he said ‘I’m here. I can’t believe it.’ Everything that he wants is here…he’s comfortable here.”
Being comfortable is an important thing. It’s something that was stressed this off-season by Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez.
“Yeah, like every weekend I went fishing with him and just talked,” shared Carlos. “Not about fishing, just about the season. How the season’s coming and he told me ‘you need to be more comfortable in you’ and ‘you need to be focused’ because last year sometimes I was up or sometimes down. Whatever happened during the game, my mentality was down. But right now when we talked, he said I needed more focus in the game. Don’t worry about what happened during the game, just focus.”
That emotion has fueled Martinez in games that are going well. But that same emotion still got the best of him at times.
“He told me about that,” continued Martinez. “If I got comfortable in myself, I’ve got control of the game. I’ve got the ball, if I don’t throw the ball it’s not going to happen. Only I control that. It’s going to help me a lot.”
Pedro Martinez isn’t the only influence on Carlos. He’s also looking squarely at the example set by one of his teammates.
“When I wake up every day in the morning, I wake up early because I want to be here in the clubhouse early because I want to try and help myself,” said Martinez. “Go to the training room and doing my stuff early because I’m just trying to follow Waino because I want to be like him. Stay on the same page with Waino. If I come here early, I’m going to work more.”
Martinez was never late before.
“I’m just trying to do extra work,” he smiled. “Something every day. Something different every day, that’s going to help me a lot.”
And if Pedro Martinez and Adam Wainwright aren’t enough, Martinez is also excited about the addition of new pitching coach Mike Maddux.
“Maddux is a beautiful guy,” said Martinez. “Lilly, he was like my papa, but I have confidence in (Maddux) too. I think he’s going to help me. He can try to teach me everything. I have confidence, when we talk, he’s like my family too. He’s going to help me a lot.”
So another 200 innings? A Cy Young Award? The World Series?
“I’m working right now to be like that because we need it,” nodded Martinez. “We need some rings. We need some championships. I’m just trying everyday. When I come here, I’m just going to be positive. I make my mind be positive and just work at it everyday.”
photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com