Martinez Ready for Next Step

(Busch Stadium) Having completed a 30-pitch bullpen session on Saturday morning, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez is expected to be sent to Jupiter, FL for extended Spring Training to continue his rehab with a next step of throwing live batting practice.

“All my pitches were good,” said Martinez, adding that he threw with a 75-80 percent intensity. “Right now, I want to be on the mound but I’m being smart. I’m trying to be quiet, trying to be healthy. I’m so excited because soon I’m going to be on the mound, but right now I’m taking it easy.”

Whether or not Martinez is built up to return as a starter or out of the bullpen has still not been finalized.

“We’ll probably look to see how he comes through with the live BPs,” Manager Mike Shildt said. “Regardless, he’s going to throw an inning and see what that looks like and then we’ll figure out how to ramp him up from there.”

The schedule for Martinez will not be unlike a pitcher at the beginning of Spring Training. He will face hitters, simulated innings, and eventually progress to game action.

The fact that the Cardinals rotation only pitched 20.1 innings through their last turn of five starts is not lost on Shildt, however, it is not yet affecting how Martinez will be prepared.

“If we’re talking about the confidence in our rotation, it’s still high,” Shildt stated. “We’ve got a group of guys that we have a lot of trust and confidence in. I can expect us at any moment, starting today, to go on a run of–and I don’t like to limit the abundance of how long that can look like. The reality is we could do it the rest of the year and have a high, high percentage of deep games and quality starts. There’s confidence in what we have and who we have. Clearly, we’re always going to evaluate what we do. No one’s naïve to that. We won’t fall asleep at the switch and just run the same guys out there forever, that’s not how this game works. With that being said, there’s no reason to look in another direction right now.”

The sentiment is not unlike yesterday’s explanation of why Alex Reyes was being moved to the rotation in Memphis (AAA). It does offer flexibility, but is not signaling that he will return to St. Louis as a starter. However, the change with Reyes and plan for Martinez are not intertwined.

“They’re both independent,” Shildt said. “He’s (Carlos) going to go and pitch. We’re going to evaluate what he does and we’re going to let him pitch again and see how he recovers. Then we’ll make a determination. I don’t want to misrepresent that he’s a starter, but I’m also not going to agree with the fact that we’re turning him into a starter.”

If the Cardinals rotation continues to struggle, Martinez and Reyes–or the likes of John Gant would seem to be candidates for any changes to be made. But that’s not a topic the manager is ready to discuss.

“I’m not going to speak in ‘ifs’ if I’m not going to talk about changing the rotation,” Shildt said. “I’m not in that business because that would send a message to the five guys that I have confidence in. I’m not going to talk about a scenario that doesn’t exist right now.”

photo credit: Aaron Doster, Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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