In my travels around the net, I have seen an increased level of interest on the point of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez being prepared this spring as a starter. In fact, he will get the ball in the team’s Florida opener on Friday, February 28. (Full spring schedule is here.)
Some, looking from a different vantage point, have extended that to suggest the organization would send the right-hander to Triple-A to start the season in the rotation or even hint the talented 22-year-old could join St. Louis’ starting five.
While either of those could happen, I don’t see them as the most likely initial scenarios.
The Cardinals have a group of young pitchers, groomed as starters, for whom there is no rotation room. Last spring, both Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal were prepared as starters, just as is Martinez currently. In fact, Rosenthal was given the ball as the starter in the Cards’ 2013 Grapefruit League opener.
As camp progressed, Shelby Miller captured the final rotation spot with Kelly and Rosenthal opening the 2013 season in the bullpen. Kelly transitioned back from relieving to starting during the summer without going down to Memphis to stretch out.
This spring, the Cardinals rotation is again full without either Martinez or Kelly. Coaches are watching Jaime Garcia and his surgically-repaired shoulder, however. If the lefty is not ready after all, that could affect Martinez – or Kelly, who for the third year in a row is on the outside of the tentative rotation looking in. If Kelly or Martinez would be needed to step into the rotation for Garcia or anyone else, it would deplete the bullpen by one important arm.
The pace of Jason Motte’s recovery could also have ramifications for Martinez’ initial destination. While Motte’s very early camp work has been encouraging, the stated position of the club is that their former closer may not be ready to start the season. If Motte opens the year on the disabled list, it could be another reason to keep Martinez in the pen for awhile longer.
It is good that the team has options with Martinez, but locking in on any one of them this early is premature.