ATLANTA — The Cardinals will stay with 13 pitchers when they play an interleague series against the Texas Rangers at Arlington, Texas this weekend, and one of them, for most of the series, will be righthander Carlos Martinez.
Martinez returned to St. Louis after pitching two innings on a minor-league rehab outing Wednesday, was examined Thursday and was to fly to Dallas to meet the team, which was to arrive after midnight Friday morning.
Since Martinez, recovering from a shoulder strain, was slated to have two days off, he isn’t likely to be activated until Saturday, the first day he would be able to pitch.
The Cardinals probably have four bullpen options with whom to make a pitching move to accommodate Martinez’s removal from the injured list.
Righthander Giovanny Gallegos might have been that guy a couple of weeks ago, but he has struck out 29 hitters in 17 innings since being brought up and is gaining favor. Dominic Leone, who has an option left, had gained some traction by striking out six in his last three scoreless innings before Thursday night, when he allowed a homer and saw his ERA climb to 8.02.
Veteran righthander Luke Gregerson, just off the injured list, hadn’t been scored on in three games before allowing four hits and two runs in two-thirds of an inning Thursday. And lefthander Tyler Webb has held lefthanded hitters to an .083 average (two for 24), but manager Mike Shildt, perhaps indicating that two lefthanded relievers might not be necessary (Andrew Miller is the other), noted that Martinez gets lefthanded batters out.
“He’s got a lot of different weapons for both sides of the plate and he can get the ball on the ground, so he can come in with runners on base and get a ground-ball double play,” said Shildt.
For the last 15 games of the 2018 season, Martinez, because of his weak shoulder, pitched strictly in relief, gaining five saves and posting a 1.47 ERA.
Martinez had three rehab outings at Memphis, one at Springfield and one at Peoria and was scored on in only one of them, covering 6 2/3 innings.
“He’s checked all the boxes,” said Shildt. “He’s a two-time All-Star that proved he could do the job out of the bullpen last year.”
• BOX SCORE: Braves 10, Cardinals 2
• STANDINGS: Cards 3½ back in NL Central
Martinez, who is near the middle of a five-year contract that takes him through 2021, has said he wants to start before the season is over, although Shildt said the bullpen will be where he will pitch for now.
“I don’t want to pigeon-hole ourselves and say, ‘No, (starting) will never happen,’ because you never know. But (starting) is not in our immediate plans,” Shildt said.
MIKOLAS REVISITS TEXAS
Miles Mikolas will return to the scene of the crime, in a manner of speaking, Friday night.
A Texas Rangers starter in 2014, the Cardinals righthander allowed a career-high 10 runs in six innings, including three home runs, on Aug. 13, 2014 as the Rangers lost to Tampa Bay 10-1. That was Mikolas’ last start at home for Texas before he would sign on with the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese League for three years after the 2014 season.
“I made it through six innings, though,” said Mikolas, smiling at the memory. “A couple of unfortunate swings.”
But there will be no particular “I’ll show you guys” motive for Mikolas on Friday when he pitches. “It’s not super high on my list of things to do,” he said Thursday.
“One of the guys who was there then, (pitching coach Mike) Maddux, has seen me grow over that time. The Rangers were interested in me when I came back, so they’re super-aware of the progress I’d made. I have tremendous respect for the organization.
“They were the ones who kind of allowed me to go to Japan in the first place. I was actually bought out of my contract in Texas by the (Yomiuri) Giants. I wasn’t really unceremoniously released, as many people think.”
The Japanese team bought Mikolas and a Texas minor league pitcher in a package deal after Mikolas, then 26, was 2-5 in 10 summertime starts with the Rangers. He was 0-4 with a 13.73 earned run average at Globe Life Park that year.
“It will be nice to get back and take a moment and maybe appreciate it,” Mikolas, now 30, said. “But it’s another game I’ve got to go out and win.”
Mikolas lost 2-1 to Pittsburgh in his previous start and has given up only three earned runs in his past three starts.
AS CARP GOES . . .
In the seven games out of the past 13 when the Cardinals scored one run or none, leadoff man Matt Carpenter, down to .199, reached base just four times in 28 plate appearances and was nothing for 24 in official at-bats.
“But with a lot that we’re looking at, we’re seeing an improvement relative to where he was at the beginning of last year (.140 on May 15),” said Shildt.
Shildt said he was looking forward to a Carpenter surge beginning Thursday when he faced Atlanta’s Julio Teheran, against whom Carpenter was seven for 14 with two homers.
J. MARTINEZ TO DH
With the Cardinals about to play their first interleague series, Shildt said that Jose Martinez, who has been playing right field, probably would serve as the designated hitter a couple of times and that Harrison Bader, displaced by the consistent hitting of Martinez, would get a couple of starts in center field.
Outfielder Tyler O’Neill, optioned recently to Memphis, hit six homers in less than two weeks in Class AAA, but seems more likely to join the Cardinals in St. Louis on Tuesday for the start of a home stand.
Shildt said that generally an extra player isn’t needed as much as an extra reliever in American League-type games. But Shildt said, “You can’t ignore the fact that (O’Neill) is probably leading Triple-A in homers at the end of two weeks.”