This season is important to the career of Carlos Martinez with the St. Louis Cardinals. Could it all come down to efficiency?
If you watched any of Carlos Martinez play during the Caribbean Series or Dominican Winter League this offseason, you felt a bit of confidence in the St. Louis Cardinals‘ righty coming into spring.
Martinez had an ERA of 0.79 over 11.1 innings this winter pitching in the Dominican Republic. His 15 strikeouts over that time were a lot of why fans were confident. It wasn’t all good, but it was encouraging after Martinez’s 2020 performance.
In 2020, Martinez had his own struggles with Covid-19 during the team’s clubhouse outbreak causing an extended shutdown of team activities in the middle of an already shortened season. Martinez started five games earning an 0-3 record, an ERA of 9.90 in 20 innings. While striking out 17 batters, he gave up 32 hits and 26 runs. Martinez’s season was not good but you hoped he would spend his offseason regaining his strength and training toward his goal of being an effective starter for the 2021 version of the Cardinals.
We’re in the last full week of Spring Training and Martinez is almost certainly going to be in the starting rotation. Out of necessity more than earning the honor, though.
Miles Mikolas hasn’t pitched in an MLB game since 2019. He had surgery to repair his right flexor tendon in 2020 and has had some lingering issues preventing him from going full force this spring. On top of this, Kwang Hyun Kim has been working through back stiffness after a frustrating start to his spring. The team does not expect either will have an extended time off from the team, but Martinez will benefit from their absence and get a chance to start.
So far, he’s started four games, earning an 0-2 record. He has an ERA of 10.03 in 11.2 innings. With 55 batters faced, he has given up 16 hits, 13 earned runs, and walked eight with seven strikeouts.
In Martinez’s last start against the Mets on March 19, according to Baseball Savant, he ranged from a 94.4 mph four-seam fastball to an 80 mph slider. Right now, he’s pitching as if he’s trying to regain a sense of confidence to make his pitches
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It would be awesome to see Martinez regain his form from 2017. According to FanGraphs, he threw 205 innings in 32 games started for a 12-11 record. He had two complete-game shutouts that summer. He had 217 strikeouts. That summer he was consistently good.
Martinez ate a lot of innings that summer and maybe that became a downfall for him. But, after struggling over the course of the last three seasons, spending some time in the bullpen, it would be great to see Martinez lock-in and re-emerge as an effective starting pitcher.
2020 is the final guaranteed year of his current contract with the Cardinals, earning $11.7 million. Martinez will have two team option years in 2022 and 2023, where he could earn $17 million and then $18 million, respectively, if the team so chooses.
After an offseason where fans saw the Cardinals not pick up the option for two-time Gold Glove second baseman Kolten Wong, it’s not likely that Martinez’s options will be picked up. There is no set line, but he will have to do a lot to convince the Cardinals to pick up his options.
This summer is important for Martinez. Let’s hope he steps up and shows that he knows it is important for his career.