CHICAGO • Over the All-Star break as they consider changes to the roster, the Cardinals want to decide what to do with rookie Carlos Martinez and whether the fireballing righty is better served as a reliever in the majors or a starter at Class AAA Memphis.
“We have to assess what makes the most sense,” general manager John Mozeliak said. “He’s electric. I definitely don’t want him to go backward in terms of how much he has built up (as a starter). As we look at the next two or three weeks is there enough usage to justify keeping him here?”
Martinez pitched two scoreless innings in the Cardinals’ loss Saturday, and he dazzled with two strikeouts and a fastball that hummed consistently at 98 mph and 97 mph. He brings the same heat as a starter, and while going 3-2 with a 1.98 ERA in 41 innings at Class AAA he’s also worked on a sinker and improved his curveball. The Cardinals promoted him for the four-game series at Wrigley Field to provide long relief.
The team does not want to use him in short-burst appearances in case they need him to start later in this season. The next time the Cardinals need a fifth starter is July 27, and Joe Kelly is positioned to take that assignment.
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They see Martinez as a contributor in the second half — just not how.
Said manager Mike Matheny, “We do really like what he brings as a starter. For his development, it’s better for him to be prepared to start. It’s tough to weigh. We know he wants to be here. We like having him here. We think he can help us. But there is more that goes into the decision.”
The Cardinals “Do Not Touch” label on former batting champ Matt Holliday was obvious Saturday night as Matheny used every batter on the bench save for Holliday. The Cardinals have not used Holliday all weekend because of a hamstring injury that they hope won’t put him on the disabled list.
Matheny said it would have been unnecessary “gamesmanship” to have Holliday play-act swinging a bat as if to hit, and that he did not want to bat Holliday with instructions not to run.
“A guy instinctively after you take a swing and put the ball in play is going to take one hard step. That sets us up to potentially go backward,” Matheny said.
A catcher’s interference call on Tony Cruz in the second inning of Saturday night’s game was changed to a base hit for Darwin Barney because of a wrinkle in the rule. The Cardinals did not complete the play — David Freese held on to the grounder as Barney ran to first base — and thus the Cubs elected to ask for a hit for Barney instead of the error on Cruz. That scoring change meant all six runs on Lance Lynn were earned.
The scoring change also meant that the Cardinals continue to have the longest active streak without a catcher’s interference in baseball, dating back to 2006.