The St. Louis Cardinals’ starting rotation is already being stretched thin. With this, the pressure is mounting on Carlos Martinez.
Coming into the 2021 season, the St. Louis Cardinals looked like their starting rotation would be a big strength flush with options, even if some weren’t proven. Fast forward through three weeks of spring training, and that same sense is gone.
Jack Flaherty is still doing Jack Flaherty things, Adam Wainwright is still defying father time, but beyond that things have gotten stretched already. First, Miles Mikolas went down with shoulder soreness and then Kwang Hyun Kim was sidelined with back tightness.
While Mikolas is scheduled to throw a bullpen before the end of spring. Kim is going to throw on Saturday, but won’t be ready for Opening Day either.
With these two out, the Cardinals’ rotation now lines up as Flaherty, Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, John Gant, and Daniel Ponce de Leon.
At the beginning of spring, Martinez was fighting for the fifth starter spot, now he’s penciled in as the third starter. Gant and Ponce de Leon have both started sporadically in the past, but neither have been able to stick in the rotation.
With two inexperienced starters behind him, the pressure has been raised on Carlos Martinez to return to form. Fans are well aware of the path Martinez has taken the past three years. In all likelihood, the Cardinals won’t be picking up his expensive option in either of the next two years, so he’s playing for a contract.
This spring, Martinez has had mixed results. Overall, he has a 6.62 ERA in 17.2 innings but in his most recent outing against a Mets lineup full of starters, he gave up just four hits over 6.0 innings without allowing a run. It all comes down to efficiency.
Martinez is in a tough spot, but if he can lock down his turn in the rotation, having assured consistency out of three of the five spots feels a lot better than just two.
Mikolas and Kim will be back before long, but Gant and Ponce de Leon will get a turn or two in the rotation. In their absence though, the pressure falls on Martinez’s shoulders to step up.