Among those slated to take the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals today is Sean Gilmartin, who was claimed off waivers from New York last June.
“Finishing the season at Memphis last year definitely helped get acclimated to the organization a little bit,” said Gilmartin. “It’s different in the fact that it seems to be a lot more organized than Spring Trainings I’ve been to in the past. It seems like they’ve got things pretty will ironed out.”
A first round draft pick of Atlanta in 2011, Gilmartin spent some time in the Minnesota organization before being becoming a Rule 5 draft pick by New York and making his MLB debut with the Mets in 2015.
“Everybody knows where they’re going, everybody know what they’re doing on that particular day,” said Gilmartin on his impression of the first Spring Training with St. Louis. “There’s no guess work. There’s no ‘I think I’m doing this’ or ‘I think I’m doing that’ kind of thing. Everybody knows where they should be, everybody knows what they’re doing so that in and of itself, makes things seamless and very easy.”
The 27-year old left-hander features a fastball, slider, changeup, and curve.
“Yep, that’s the arsenal,” said Gilmartin. “I’m a four pitch guy, so I’m not going to the ball by anybody but I rely more so on my command of the strike zone and movement.”
And like most pitchers with that kind of arsenal, developing the right feel on those pitches is key.
“Spring Training, it’s tough because some days you’re going to be better than others,” said Gilmartin. “Not having pitched in a game since last September or whatever it was, every day is going to be a little bit different. You don’t have that mid-season feel for everything. You’re just trying to feel it out and get ready for the season, really. There’s days where things aren’t feeling right and I’m going to throw a little bit more.
“If things are feeling really good, I’m definitely going to back off a little bit just because there’s no need to overdo it. When things are feeling good and feeling right, that’s when you make your quality pitches and your done. Maybe you only throw 15-20 in the bullpen. If things are throwing a little bit off, I’ll throw an extra three or four of those pitches that are feeling wrong that day just to get it back on track.”
As a pitcher who can start, provide middle relief, or come in at the end of games, what’s his perfect script for 2018?
“Helping the big league club compete and winning ballgames, and then ultimately winning the World Series,” stated Gilmartin. “That was something that I had an opportunity to do in 2015. We didn’t win the World Series with the Mets, but we got there. We played in the World Series and I think that’s everybody’s goal–is playing deep into the post season and getting to the World Series.”
Gilmartin had a 2.67 ERA in 50 games with the Mets in that 2015 season and retired both batters he faced in the World Series. After that, he began a roller coaster between the Mets and the minor leagues.
“It’s tough when you got options,” he smiled. “Everybody’s experienced that, guys with options, especially in the bullpen. There’s so much movement. It just kind of depends on what the team needs that particular day and that particular week. I’ve gone through stretches where I’ve been in the big leagues and thrown six innings and haven’t given up a single run and I get optioned the next day. It plays mind games on you a little bit, but you kind of have to roll with it.”
With one option left, Gilmartin understood when he was outrighted off the Cardinals roster this past September as they retained his control whether he was on the 40-man or not.
“That’s the toughest thing really for anybody, I think,” said Gilmartin. “Learning to how to deal with that up and down, back and forth. It’s not easy for anybody, but especially when the last two years being the New York triple-A affiliate is in Las Vegas, you’ve got to board a five hour flight and be ready to pitch that day or that next day. That’s always tough, but it’s just part of it.”
Growing up, Gilmartin was a big fan of Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves, regularly watching their games on TBS. But his favorite pitcher is actually Nolan Ryan.
“I grew up watching those guys, but I’ve always kind of been somewhat a student of baseball and baseball history,” he explained. “I know a lot about Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, and even Nolan Ryan. I like that mentality of, kind of like here it is. I’m coming after you with what I’ve got that day. Here it is, hit it kind of thing.”
And the hope that Bob Gibson will soon be a visitor in Spring Training with the Cardinals hasn’t escaped Gilmartin.
“That’s something about being in an organization like this with the history that it has,” he said. “You see a lot of those guys that come back. Guys that I didn’t really grow up hearing about, my dad did. My dad grew up in the 50s and 60s and watched Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax pitch. Those are some of his childhood heroes, so getting to be part of something like that is really cool.”
As for how he goes about making his own impression this Spring?
“The question answers itself–you just have to go out there and do your job,” answered Gilmartin. “For a guy like me, like I said earlier, I don’t rely on the 95mph fastball. So why am I going to out in a bullpen or a game and try to throw 93 when that’s something I don’t do? That’s not my game.
“Just going out there and doing my job–locating well, making pitches and going from there.”
photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com