JUPITER, Fla. -- With a gaggle of 10 pitchers competing for five big league rotation spots this spring, the Cardinals will be forced into some creativity when it comes time to assigning roles to each at the end of March. That will mean a return to the Minors for some
JUPITER, Fla. -- With a gaggle of 10 pitchers competing for five big league rotation spots this spring, the Cardinals will be forced into some creativity when it comes time to assigning roles to each at the end of March. That will mean a return to the Minors for some and a move into the 'pen for others.
Carlos Martínez may not be immune from consideration for the latter.
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Twice, as if for emphasis, pitching coach Mike Maddux redirected questions about Martinez's planned transition back into the rotation by lauding the way he handled a relief role upon returning from a third stint on the disabled list last year.
"It was pretty cool to watch him pitch out of the bullpen, wasn't it?" Maddux said when asked how the experience of pitching in relief could help Martinez as a starter.
When the question was posed a second time, Maddux answered: "I liked him out of the bullpen a lot."
"Right now Carlos is in the rotation, but that's the great thing about the flexibility we have," Maddux added. "You might be a starter in Spring Training, but you might end up in the bullpen or something like that."
That St. Louis is open to recasting Martinez speaks to its overall pitching depth and the value he could bring as a late-inning weapon. It could also speak to lingering uncertainty about Martinez's durability, though he enters camp optimistic that his work this offseason has him ready to shoulder a starter's load.
"Right now, I feel like a new guy," Martinez said on Tuesday, one day before the team's first official spring workout. "Right now, I feel a hunger."
For now, however, Martinez wants to prep for a starting job, and the Cardinals intend for him to do so.
"His mindset, our mindset, is that he'll start camp in that mode to get ready to compete," St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. "The thing we like about Carlos is the flexibility that he can bring, and his effectiveness in both roles. So as you look at your total team and what it looks like, you always want to have the option or the availability to know that there is flexibility.
"That being said, it's not newsworthy to us, at least. He's being developed and is expected to be a starter. But know that as we go through Spring Training and evaluate our club, he is a piece that could transition to the bullpen."
There was a lot to like about how Martinez seized his role as a reliever over the final six weeks of the 2018 season. He posted a 1.47 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while holding batters to a .523 OPS over 18 1/3 innings. In comparison, opponents posted a .668 OPS in Martinez's 18 starts.
The intensity with which he came out throwing in relief is something the Cards would like Martinez to replicate if he does settle back in as a starter. Martinez agreed, and noted that improved focus will be key as well.
"Wherever they're going to put me, I'm going relax and keep working hard," Martinez said. "Right now I feel good. My whole body feels good. I'm going to show you guys who I am."
• Shildt said he was not aware of travel or personal issues that would keep any of the team's pitchers and catchers from being present for Wednesday's first official workout. Francisco Peña and John Brebbia were among the few who had not yet been spotted at the team's complex.
• Though most National League clubs have moved in the direction of carrying a 13-man pitching staff, Maddux noted that the Cardinals may be comfortable opening the season with 12. Shildt was more non-committal, noting that the decision "will be reflective of both sides of the ball, what that looks like and how the competition ends up shaking out."
• The Cardinals were pleasantly surprised to learn that reliever Luke Gregerson reported to camp feeling optimistic about his chances of pitching in Grapefruit League games this spring. Just last month, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak reported that Gregerson was still dealing with some lingering health issues. Gregerson appeared in 17 games for the Cardinals in 2018.
• Pitchers Jack Flaherty (No. 22) and Austin Gomber (No. 36) will be wearing new numbers this season. Former manager Mike Matheny was the last Cardinal to wear No. 22.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.