Miles Mikolas is not the only starting pitcher who is getting close to returning for the St. Louis Cardinals. Carlos Martinez, who went on the injured list with a right ankle sprain, could return as soon as this weekend, manager Mike Shildt told reporters, including Katie Woo of The Athletic.
The imminent return of Martinez impacts the Cardinals greater than Mikolas. While Mikolas has an 18-win season under his belt, he comes back as more of an unknown having hardly pitched since 2019. Martinez, meanwhile, looked dominant at times this season and has given the rotation a boost that even the most optimistic of observers likely didn’t see coming this season.
Martinez, 29, injured himself after he slipped celebrating Jack Flaherty’s home run. The injury was never considered serious, but it was bad enough that it required a 10-day stint on the injured list. The Cardinals were clearly impacted by not having Martinez, as the rotation struggled to pitch deep into games against the San Diego Padres, and his return should provide an immediate boost.
Combined with Mikolas, the Cardinals are on the verge of having the rotation that they envisioned all offseason. That they are 24-18 and 2.5 games ahead in the National League Central, having missed two starters and a plethora of other impact players, says a lot about the current state of the roster.
But getting Martinez back is crucial for the Cardinals. There is plenty that he needs to improve upon, of course, most notably his command. Walks have been an issue this season, as he has 14 walks in 41.1 innings, allowing five in five innings pitched in his most recent start against the Colorado Rockies.
The ankle injury surely contributed to that, of course. But getting Martinez back means the Cardinals rotation will soon be at its best and should not only have an impact on the rotation, but on a bullpen that has seen a lot of work in the first 42 games of the regular season.