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Martinez back to work, unveils cutter

Hurler returns after one-start absence, ready to focus on regular season rest of spring
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

JUPITER, Fla. -- Back on the hill, Carlos Martinez tried out a new pitch. The Cardinals' ace is tinkering with a cutter this spring, and the few he introduced to Marlins hitters Thursday highlighted his return to game action following a one-start absence.

Martinez said after St. Louis' 5-4 win over Miami that the family matter that forced him to miss his last start won't continue to affect his on-field presence going forward. Martinez left camp for a day last week, which resulted in the Cardinals scratching him late from his scheduled start against the Red Sox. Martinez threw three innings of a simulated game against Minor Leaguers instead, before leaving the facility. Club officials have declined to comment on the situation up to this point.

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Back on the hill, Carlos Martinez tried out a new pitch. The Cardinals' ace is tinkering with a cutter this spring, and the few he introduced to Marlins hitters Thursday highlighted his return to game action following a one-start absence.

Martinez said after St. Louis' 5-4 win over Miami that the family matter that forced him to miss his last start won't continue to affect his on-field presence going forward. Martinez left camp for a day last week, which resulted in the Cardinals scratching him late from his scheduled start against the Red Sox. Martinez threw three innings of a simulated game against Minor Leaguers instead, before leaving the facility. Club officials have declined to comment on the situation up to this point.

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"It was just something I was doing with my family," Martinez said Thursday.

For the Cardinals' ace, it was also another early hiccup in what was shaping into a shaky spring. Unable to harness his mechanics, Martinez struggled in his Grapefruit League debut against the Mets, his shoulder flying open and his pitches along with it. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny knows inconsistencies in Martinez's delivery are the crux of his top righty's struggles.

"He looks loose when the ball is all over the joint," Matheny said. "His body was falling off the mound. It looked like he was flinging the ball."

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Thursday brought a cleaner look. Displaying much better mechanics -- "nice and easy" -- Martinez spent four innings missing bats and inducing soft contact. He allowed a run on five hits, all singles (and two of the infield variety). He walked two and struck out four.

He occasionally splashed in a cutter, which Martinez only recently began experimenting with.

"I was trying to throw my first pitch for a strike and introduce my new pitches," Martinez said. "I felt comfortable, too."

Matheny believes the pitch could be a weapon against lefties if Martinez utilizes it shrewdly. Not as a main weapon, but as a complementary one. Martinez already throws four pitches with regularity, including two types of fastballs.

"You have a guy who can throw in the upper 90s, and then throw a curveball for a strike in any count. That's just rare," Matheny said. "I think the cutter is going to continue to be an avid pitch. But between the sinker, the four-seamer and the slider -- anything else he adds -- I think it will be more him picking and choosing which hitters to use it with."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Martinez