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Martinez shows a little rust in spring debut

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As far as the factors working in Carlos Martinez's favor, the list is long and includes an elite four-pitch arsenal. This season, the club sees an opportunity for Martinez to truly elevate himself to the next level.

But in his 2018 Grapefruit League debut Saturday, Martinez walked three over 1 1/3 innings in St. Louis' 10-5 win over the Mets.

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As far as the factors working in Carlos Martinez's favor, the list is long and includes an elite four-pitch arsenal. This season, the club sees an opportunity for Martinez to truly elevate himself to the next level.

But in his 2018 Grapefruit League debut Saturday, Martinez walked three over 1 1/3 innings in St. Louis' 10-5 win over the Mets.

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On one hand, first spring starts often see the pitcher dealing with rust. But on the other, the forces that kept Martinez from finishing his allotted two innings Saturday were far from unfamiliar. They were, instead, the same ones the club has long blamed for keeping Martinez from being considered one of the game's best starters, despite his talent.

"Inconsistencies," manager Mike Matheny called them pregame.

"Focus," Martinez said afterward. "I need to be more focused in the first inning."

Had this been the regular season, when lineups are deeper, the first frame may have unraveled for Martinez on Saturday. He hit a batter and issued two walks, including one with the bases loaded. In all, Martinez faced nine batters, striking out two.

That Martinez can sprinkle in the occasional clunker is what separates him, St. Louis believes, from the game's class of elite pitchers. This spring, the Cards have challenged him to examine some of them, including Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, knowing the club's 2018 ceiling could hinge on whether or not Martinez joins the upper tier.

"[Martinez] wants to be better," Matheny said. "That opens our door. How can he be better?"

Reyes progressing
Back at the club's complex in Jupiter, Fla., Alex Reyes' rehab progression following Tommy John surgery continued smoothly. The 23-year-old right-hander completed his second 50-pitch bullpen session of the spring Saturday morning, throwing two sets of 25 pitches and incorporating his breaking ball more than in any other session this spring. Reyes' next session figures to be slightly more strenuous. The Cardinals maintain the hope that he can return by May 1.

What's next: The Cardinals will get their first in-game look at right-hander Miles Mikolas, whom the club signed to be its fourth starter this offseason after three seasons in Japan. Mikolas will start when the Cardinals return to Jupiter to face the defending champion Astros at 12:05 p.m. CT. It'll be his first Major League appearance, Spring Training or otherwise, since 2014. Daniel Poncedeleon , returning from a skull fracture after he was hit by a liner in 2017, is also scheduled to pitch. Catch the game live on MLB.TV.

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

St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Martinez