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Hard-throwing Martinez, Helsley join Cards' 'pen

May 17, 2019

ARLINGTON -- With right-hander Carlos Martínez ready to return from the injured list, the Cardinals retooled their bullpen Friday, activating Martinez, recalling rookie Ryan Helsley from Triple-A Memphis, optioning Dominic Leone to Memphis and designating Luke Gregerson for assignment. “Hopefully we just added two big power arms that can stretch

ARLINGTON -- With right-hander Carlos Martínez ready to return from the injured list, the Cardinals retooled their bullpen Friday, activating Martinez, recalling rookie Ryan Helsley from Triple-A Memphis, optioning Dominic Leone to Memphis and designating Luke Gregerson for assignment.

“Hopefully we just added two big power arms that can stretch out the bullpen and put us in a good position to leverage everybody out there,” general manager Mike Girsch said.

Martinez has not pitched in the Majors this season due to a right shoulder cuff strain, but he successfully navigated an 11-day rehab assignment that spanned five appearances across three Minor League levels. He allowed one run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings total and will be ready to throw multiple innings in relief for St. Louis, if necessary.

“He’s not pigeonholed into only one inning, only starting an inning, he’s a reliever and he’s ready to go,” Girsch said.

Martinez threw 20 pitches in two innings for Double-A Springfield on Wednesday in his final rehab appearance. In six seasons with the Cardinals, Martinez has a 3.37 ERA and 800 strikeouts in 816 1/3 innings. Though nearly 90 percent of his appearances the past four seasons were starts, he will be mostly a late-inning pitcher for now.

“I’m ready to go, whatever inning they need me,” Martinez said. “I’ve got a lot of experience from the bullpen my first years, 2013-2014, I was in the bullpen and I helped the team a lot. Right now, I’ve just got to focus on one inning, two innings.”

Helsley, the Cardinals' No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has a 3.57 ERA in seven games for Memphis this season. He also posted a 2.84 ERA in 6 1/3 innings in a brief stint with the Cardinals in April.

Gregerson, a 12th-year veteran, had a disappointing two-year stay with St. Louis. He pitched just 18 1/3 innings over that time and was ineffective in six appearances this season, allowing five earned runs on 11 hits.

Gregerson and Leone were outliers in an otherwise strong bullpen. John Gant, John Brebbia and closer Jordan Hicks all have sub-2.00 ERAs this season, and Andrew Miller has been solid since a mediocre first week. The additions of Martinez and Helsley make the Cardinals' relief corps even better, manager Mike Shildt said.

“It’s a very good bullpen with a lot of interchangeable parts, which is great,” Shildt said.

Gomber placed on IL
Left-hander Austin Gomber has been placed on the seven-day injured list at Memphis with biceps stiffness, but the Cardinals say they’re acting out of precaution. Gomber pitched in 29 games, including 11 starts, with St. Louis last season and has made eight starts for Memphis.

“He was throwing his side session between starts a couple days ago, he just felt a little discomfort in his bicep, and rather than push it, we just went ahead and put him on the injured list,” Girsch said. “We expect it to be one or two starts, we don’t expect it to be a major issue. Nothing that anyone’s too concerned about right now.”

Injury updates
Right-hander Alex Reyes (injured left pinkie finger) has been cleared to begin playing defense and will pitch for Class A Advanced Palm Beach soon, Girsch said. … Left-hander Brett Cecil (carpal tunnel surgery on left wrist) will begin a throwing program on Monday. … Right-hander Mike Mayers (lat strain) will begin throwing early next week.