Shoulder concerns sideline Carlos Martinez

Right-hander will not throw for at least two weeks

February 19th, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- Continuing concerns about areas of weakness around 's right shoulder prompted the Cardinals to transfer the right-hander to a two-week, no-throwing program that now puts his readiness for Opening Day in jeopardy.
Manager Mike Shildt relayed the change in plan on Tuesday, one day after Martinez was sent away for an MRI of his shoulder. Though the scan showed no change from a baseline test in 2016, the club is concerned about possible adverse effects if Martinez was to continue pitching through weakness in the surrounding muscles.
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Martinez was candid, too, in telling the Cardinals' medical staff that he "felt a little bit of inflammation and weakness" while throwing his last bullpen session. He won't throw again until at least March 5.
"I wanted to be smart about it so that I can pitch the whole year and it doesn't end up like last year," Martinez said through a translator. "I knew that was a possibility, and that's what I wanted to avoid. I think it's a lot better than last year, which is why I'm 100 percent sure that I'm going to be OK."

The 27-year-old right-hander had three stints on the injured list last season, first with a right lat strain, then a right oblique strain and right shoulder strain. Though the injuries were different, the Cardinals believed the source wasn't, which is why Martinez was tasked with strengthening his shoulder over the offseason.
Publicly, St. Louis contends that he did. But the organization didn't have much oversight of Martinez's winter workouts, which left them waiting until he reported to Spring Training to get a complete read on how ready he was to begin throwing. It took only two side sessions to realize Martinez would be a bit behind.

The Cardinals do believe the setback can be rectified if Martinez is dedicated to his strengthening program over the next few weeks. They were further encouraged by the fact that the MRI revealed no structural damage.
"To know that it looks structurally the same from 2016 to now is quite remarkable and exciting, and it's just a matter of balance of strength and attention to it," Shildt said. "The reason for the plan is about the season and the length of the season and the durability for him to be able to pitch in a long season and make sure we get him out there consistently."
What that means for his availability at the start of the season, though, is undetermined. If Martinez is cleared to resume throwing the first week of March, he could still have time to build up before the team heads north. If the setback keeps him off the mound any longer, he'll almost certainly open the year on the injured list.

There's also the question of role.
While the Cardinals intended to prep Martinez as a starter, they haven't ruled out a potential fit in the bullpen. That could generate more serious consideration if the club is concerned about Martinez's ability to shoulder a starter's workload. However, moving Martinez to the 'pen would require confidence in his ability to recover quickly. Right now, that's still a concern.
"We'll evaluate as we go," Shildt said. "That will be where the rubber meets the road when we figure out where he fits the best, to know that he can handle the load and we can count on him for the ability to compete in the long season. That very well could be as a starter, and it may pivot to the bullpen. But that's something we won't evaluate until we get him on the road."
If the Cardinals were to open the season without Martinez in the starting rotation, it's most likely the Cardinals would turn to one of their other starters in camp -- , , , and -- before looking outside the organization for additional help. All five have Major League experience, and all but Hudson made at least one start for the Cardinals last year.
"There's a lot of people in the conversation," Shildt said. "The beautiful thing from our standpoint is depth and competition."