Less than two weeks away from Opening Night, the St. Louis Cardinals officially named Carlos Martinez the starter for the team’s first game of 2017.
The honor makes Martinez only the fourth pitcher to start on Opening Day for the Cardinals in the past decade and the 53rd in franchise history.
Wainwright, who had received four straight Opening Day nods since 2013, was the other realistic option to start because of his longevity and leadership despite some regression last year. Per one tweet from KMOV Cardinals beat writer J.J. Bailey, Wainwright had an interesting take on Martinez being named starter.
In February, Martinez avoided arbitration with a five-year, $51 million contract extension. As the third largest contract ever given to a Cardinals pitcher, Martinez could be expected to start in more high-stake situations like Opening Day in the foreseeable future.
Coming off of a season where Martinez lead team qualifiers and placed within MLB’s Top 10 in ERA (3.04) , wins (16) and WAR (5.4), the nod is well deserved. Martinez had not previously started earlier than the fifth game into a season.
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While Martinez has only pitched one Spring Training contest for the Cardinals so far, he has remained active through the World Baseball Classic. The Dominican Republic native pitched two times in the worldwide competition, collecting a victory, eight strikeouts and a 1.13 ERA through the experience.
The 25 year-old’s first start of the season will come against the Chicago Cubs, a division rival he has had relative success against considering Chicago’s organizational improvement to a 2016 World Series title.
In 2016, Martinez had three quality starts in five outings against the defending World Series champions. He also owns a 3-3 record and 63 strikeouts over 61.2 career innings against the Chicago Cubs.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny announced on Sunday that the team would enter the 2017 campaign with a rotation consisting of Martinez, Wainwright, Mike Leake, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha. Although the order is not yet set in stone, Wednesday’s news means the pitching arrangement could be getting closer to solidified.