There is an old saying that goes like this: it’s possible to have too good of something. That’s exactly the situation the St. Louis Cardinals are in right now. They have the deepest pitching staff in baseball, but have only a limited amount of slots to fill for the starting rotation. Four of the five starting rotation spots are essentially filled. In no particular order, the starters are: Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn. Originally Jaime Garcia was scheduled to be in the starting rotation, but a shoulder injury has ended that possibility, for the time being.
But there are a duo of pitchers fighting for that 5th and final spot now: Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez. The question is, who should start?
The answer is Carlos Martinez.
Not to take anything away from what Joe Kelly has done in the past two seasons, especially in the starting role. While he’s had strong moments, his lapses in strong performances can be a cause for concern. Kelly could still be a starter in the rotation in the future, but for now, it’s best to give the young Martinez a shot to prove himself.
Martinez is in his second season with the Redbirds. He signed with the Cardinals’ minor league system in 2010, and worked his way up the ranks all the way to the Memphis Redbirds, being touted as the “number 3” top prospect for the Cardinals, after Oscar Tavares and Kolten Wong.
On May 3rd, 2013, Martinez got his shot in the big leagues, as he was called up to the Cardinals roster. That night, against the Brewers, he pitched a full inning of relief, only allowing one hit. In his rookie season, he had a 2-1 record, an unimpressive 5.08 ERA, and 24 strikeouts. But the 1-2 punch of Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal was an amazing duo of relievers, and played a big role in the Cardinals’ ability to close out many games.
The Cardinals have a surplus in effective pitchers, and with four out of five spots already filled, the competition is on between Kelly and Martinez to fill the fifth spot while Garcia is out. To give Carlos Martinez a shot as a starter will help the Cardinals determine what to do with him in the long term.
If it works out, the role could be permanent by the start of the 2014 regular season. If not, he’s still a strong reliever to have, with a fastball that baffles opposing batters. There is no losing scenario here for the St. Louis Cardinals, as long as the rotation is figured out within the next four weeks.
But by giving him a starting shot, the Cardinals will be able to see if there is more in the untapped potential of Carlos Martinez than just a relief spot in the bullpen.
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