ATLANTA -- The Cardinals are poised to add a dynamic arm to their bullpen in Texas when they activate Carlos Martinez from the injured list, likely ahead of Saturday’s game at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Martinez was seen by the Cardinals’ medical staff in St. Louis on Thursday and passed all necessary tests, general manager Michael Girsch confirmed. With that, Martinez was cleared to fly to Texas, where he’ll meet up with the Cardinals on Friday and, barring any unexpected setback, be added to the 25-man roster a day later.
“He’s checked all the boxes,” manager Mike Shildt said.
Who from the bullpen the Cardinals will send out to open a spot for Martinez remains in discussion. Martinez’s effectiveness against left-handed hitters could lessen the need for the Cards to carry a second lefty in the 'pen. Right now, that’s Tyler Webb. Giovanny Gallegos, Dominic Leone and Luke Gregerson could also be susceptible to being moved off the roster because of recent results.
As for Martinez, he’ll return following a rehab stint that spanned 11 days and featured five appearances across three Minor League levels. Martinez pitched more than one inning during each of his final two outings and in total allowed one run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings. He walked four and struck out five.
The Cardinals feel Martinez can be stretched as far as 30 pitches immediately, if needed. Shildt also said he’d have no hesitation pitching Martinez on consecutive days as long as his pitch count is reasonable.
How Martinez will be used will vary. St. Louis views him as a ready late-inning option, but also someone who can be summoned to pitch out of a jam.
“You’re talking about a legitimate weapon, a two-time All-Star that proved he can do the job out of the bullpen last year,” Shildt said. “He’s got a lot of different weapons for both sides of the plate. And he can get the ball on the ground.”
Martinez, whose delayed season start traces back to shoulder weakness in Spring Training, made 15 appearances out of the bullpen late last season for St. Louis. In those, he posted a 1.47 ERA while holding opponents to a .177 batting average and .523 OPS.
DH duties for Martinez
Instead of using their upcoming Interleague series to get various position players partial days off by rotating them through the designated-hitter spot, Shildt intends to use the extra bat to his defensive advantage.
Shildt hinted that Jose Martinez would assume DH duties at least twice in the team’s upcoming three-game series. That will allow the Cardinals to open an outfield spot for Harrison Bader, who has been mostly buried on the bench since returning from the 10-day injured list. Reinserting Bader as the starting center fielder will shift Dexter Fowler back to right field.
Since the introduction of Interleague Play in 1997, no National League team has had more success from the DH spot than the Cardinals. They lead the league in DH batting average (.299), on-base percentage (.375), slugging percentage (.507) and RBIs (136).
What more must he prove?
With home runs in three of his past four games, Tyler O'Neill continues to assert that he has little left to prove in Triple-A. The only problem is that the Cardinals still don’t have playing time available to him in the Majors.
The organization did consider calling O’Neill up for the Cardinals’ upcoming series in Arlington, but ultimately decided to stick with eight relievers instead.
The Cardinals might not feel so compelled to carry that extra arm much longer, though, as they will have three off days in an eight-day span beginning on Monday. That could work to O’Neill’s advantage.
“You can’t ignore the fact that he’s probably leading Triple-A in homers for being there two weeks,” Shildt acknowledged. “I’m sure Tyler would prefer to be here. But [we need to] make sure if he’s here that we have a spot for him that makes sense. We’ll evaluate.”
Since being optioned to Triple-A earlier this month, O’Neill has slashed .295/.354/.705 with six homers and 12 RBIs in 11 games.