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Cardinals Spring Baseball

Carlos Martinez gets a shoulder rub from Cardinals teammate Michael Wacha as they watch Dakota Hudson throw a bullpen session during spring training on Feb. 13, 2019, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Carlos Martinez’s first step toward his return from a shoulder ailment that flared up again in the spring was a six-pitch, three-up-and-down outing Sunday at Class A Peoria (Ill.). His next several steps will be as a reliever at Class AAA Memphis, where the righthander is slated to pitch on Wednesday night.

Martinez is likely to have to show he can pitch on back-to-back days before the Cardinals would pull him off the injured list. But, after a week or so in Memphis, he might rejoin the team on a trip to Atlanta and Texas next week.

“I’ll take three outs on six pitches every day, regardless,’ Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “That was great for Carlos.”

Martinez, according to the reports, threw his fastball, slider and changeup, all in six pitches. But whether he’ll want to throw at his top speed at some point is fairly immaterial right now to Shildt.

“Carlos has got pitch-ability,” Shildt said. “It’s a trait which isn’t consistent in the game any more. He knows how to get his outs. His velocity was good. He wasn’t in the upper ‘90s, but he probably figured he didn’t need to be. He knows when he can grab it. The ball had movement and life. Ultimately, that’s what you evaluate. The reality of it is that it’s hard for a guy to throw 98 to 100 (mph) for his whole career. Would it nice to see it? Yeah, it would be great.

“Does it mean he can’t pitch in the big leagues without it? He can pitch for me, getting eight-pitch innings and getting ground balls, having a ‘plus’ sinker and ‘plus’ changeup and a really good slider. That all plays. Time will tell about the velocity. It’s not going to preclude him from pitching in St. Louis.”

J. MARTINEZ SOLDIERS ON

With his native Venezuela in more political unrest, Cardinals right fielder Jose Martinez continues to be one of baseball’s hottest hitters at .355.

“He carries a burden with him with what goes on in his country,” Shildt said. “He’s got concern for his family, rightfully so. Big heart. But (he also) shows professionally (he) is able to separate.”

Martinez said, “I’m just trying to get (my family) out of there, period. It’s bad. It’s a disaster. And I don’t think there’s a way to just get out of there because everything gets worse day by day.”

Asked whom he was trying to get out of the country, Martinez said, “Mom, brothers, son, grandma, uncles, everybody. I have people over there. . . . I’m just trying to get my family safe and concentrate on baseball. . . . I have to work harder because of them and try to get them out of there as soon as possible.”

THE ‘DABO’ TRIP

Coach Dabo Swinney, coach of the national champion Clemson University football team, is taking the ultimate early summer vacation with his two oldest sons who played for him and just finished their final exams at Clemson.

After watching the Rockets-Warriors basketball playoff game Saturday night in Houston, Swinney, a friend of Shildt’s who spoke for more than an hour to the Cardinals this spring, was here with his boys for the Cardinals’ game on Monday. This came after a pit stop on Sunday in San Antonio for Cinco de Mayo festivities.

Then, on Tuesday they are to be in Toronto for the Raptors’ NBA playoff game with Philadelphia. On Wednesday there will be a doubleheader in Milwaukee. It’s Brewers baseball at noon with Washington then Bucks-Boston basketball playoff action at night.

“It’s like perfect,” Swinney said. Asked for which teams he cheered, Swinney laughed and said, “Home team. Whoever’s hosting us. When in Rome. . . .

“Cardinals all the way. Raptors and Bucks. . . . all the way.”

NO LARCENY HERE

Through Sunday opposing teams had tried to steal just six times, with four successful, against the Cardinals. That was the fewest attempts against a team in the majors.

“It starts with our catcher (Yadier Molina),” Shildt said. “He’s got nine Gold Gloves and looking for more. And our pitchers are very intentional about their work. We constantly are making sure that our cadence is different, so we don’t get caught in the same timing. We’re able to show a representative move (to first) to keep somebody honest. And we’re able to vary our times to the plate.”

ROBE RELIEVERS

The Cardinals’ relievers were dressed before the game Monday in white robes, courtesy of Dominic Leone. The robes looked much like those of boxers and Leone said for now, he was “the challenger, looking to become the champion in the next outing.”

On Sunday, Leone was tagged for six runs in the eighth inning at Chicago after allowing a similar number of runs in the ninth inning about a week before that.

He said that Dakota Hudson, a starter who had earned a save, was lobbying for “half a (robe).” But infielder Jedd Gyorko, who pitched one out of relief and, presumably, will not be starting, would be getting a robe.

(Stu Durando of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report).

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