The Cardinals have decided to utilize righty Carlos Martinez as a reliever down the stretch, as Peter Baugh of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was among those to report. Martinez has been sidelined with a shoulder strain.
Unsurprisingly, the move is expected only to be temporary. The idea seems to be that it would simply take too long to get Martinez back up to speed as a starter. By bumping him into the relief unit, he can perhaps make an impact down the stretch for the Cards before preparing to stretch back out next spring.
Martinez will first need to get back on the hill — and stay there. He has compiled 100 1/3 innings of 3.41 ERA pitching thus far this year, but has also dealt with a series of arm and back injuries that are fairly concerning in the aggregate. His average four-seam fastball is down a full tick from 2017, with his more-frequently utilized sinker falling 2.3 mph.
Surely, the Cardinals will exercise care in handling Martinez. The increasingly worrisome health situation takes place against the backdrop of a significant investment. Martinez remains under team control through 2023 under the extension he signed back in February of 2017, with a guaranteed $34.5MM due over the next three seasons before successive options priced at $17MM and $18MM (each of which come with $500K buyouts).
That’s not to say there isn’t also an interest in getting Martinez back in action as soon as possible. He hasn’t pitched in a relief capacity since he was still establishing himself in the majors, but clearly a pitcher of his abilities could make for a notable addition to the St. Louis bullpen. The Cards are still 2.5 games out of postseason position, but have played quite well of late and entered action today eight games over .500.