St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Martinez makes unexpected return to bullpen

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 30: Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 30, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 30: Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 30, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

In a surprising turn of events first revealed to the public by St. Louis Post Dispatch reporter Derrick Goold, the St. Louis Cardinals plan to bring pitcher Carlos Martinez back from the disabled list as a reliever.

It’s an odd move considering that Carlos Martinez is considered the St. Louis Cardinals‘ number-one starter and the fact that there are other arms who seem much more suited for the bullpen.

This wouldn’t be Carlos Martinez’s first time in the bullpen. He logged 85.2 innings as a reliever over his first two plus professional seasons, registering a 3.89 ERA and 75 K’s in that span. He did not play well as a closer, only picking up two saves during that period while blowing five saves, all in 2014.

Martinez was made a starter after just one relief appearance in 2015, and the rest is history.

This seems like a very passive move from the St. Louis Cardinals management, placing the long-term health of Carlos Martinez over the possible success of the team this season. From the perspective of one who believes the team can compete, this move can be seen as irrational and outlandish. However, this move makes a lot more sense if you look at from a future focused standpoint.

With the way the St. Louis Cardinals have played under interim manager Mike Shildt, throwing in the towel on this season seems a bit insulting to some fans. The Cardinals have historically overcome far worse than 5.5 games back in the division and 2.5 games back in the Wild Card, so there is seemingly no reason to make moves like this season is a lost cause.

Putting Martinez in a pen shores up a young group that has been one of the best in baseball since Shildt was hired, but there is no doubt that Martinez is better utilized as a starter. He will certainly be used often if he is a reliever, but if the St. Louis Cardinals are going to do everything they can to make the playoffs, Carlos Martinez is still one of your top starters, and he should be used as such.

Another issue with Martinez coming out of the ‘pen is the fact that he is very much a momentum and rhythm based pitcher, and can get into tough spots before he gets into that rhythm. When coming out of the bullpen, that rhythm isn’t present, so there is a concern that Martinez will be unable to establish himself and struggle with his control as he does in some starts.

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The main reason this move is being made is to protect Martinez for the long term. With the questions surrounding Alex Reyes and the injury problems that Martinez has dealt with, the St. Louis Cardinals have prioritized guaranteeing Martinez’s health over utilizing all possible assets towards making a playoff run this season.

Additionally, management probably felt comfortable making this move because of the additional young bodies that have performed better than expected in the rotation. This allows management to feel comfortable with keeping the starters as they are and still be able to compete for a playoff spot. There are definitely other names I would have much rather seen than Martinez go to the bullpen though. Very recently, I advocated for Luke Weaver to be the one to go the the bullpen.

While it doesn’t seem like the right move to give up on this season just yet, there is no doubt that this St. Louis Cardinals team is not a World Series caliber team at this point. Making the playoffs is a wonderful feat, but for an organization with the high standards that the St. Louis Cardinals have, winning titles is the goal, not just making the playoffs. With this move, Cardinals management are looking to future titles by protecting Carlos Martinez, but it still seems to be a bit too much.

Limiting his pitch count per start would be an effective way to keep Martinez in the starting rotation while preserving him, which I think would have been the best move to appease both sides of the coin. Another would be to plan to psuedo-rehab him back into the starting rotation through the bullpen. However, the St. Louis Cardinals are being as careful and controlling as possible with Martinez.

No matter what is driving the move, it seems like the St. Louis Cardinals front office are willing to give up on this season, as there is a lot of future focus in this move, and maybe not enough focus on the here and now for a team still entrenched in the playoff hunt.

Next. Memphis = Boston. dark

What do you think about this move? Is it the right move to protect Carlos, or should he be allowed to come back from this DL stint with no limits? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.