Why Carlos Martinez?

Posted on May 3, 2013 

The most common question I'm hearing this morning is "Why is Carlos Martinez the guy that the Cardinals call up to replace Mitchell Boggs in the bullpen?"

And the answer isn't entirely obvious.

The Cardinals have a wealth of prospects in the minors. But they're younger guys who aren't necessarily ready to be thrown into the major league fire. I'm guessing the decision was made not based on who the Redbirds brass believes will be the best pitcher in the long term. Rather I think they're concerned with who they think can make a meaningful contribution right now.

The team is in first place and it's likely going to get confirmation soon that closer Jason Motte is out for the season. So they need someone who can pitch in right away.

Why wouldn't he be the guy? He was all the way down in Class AA Springfield and there are deserving pitchers at Class AAA Memphis who seem to be higher in the pecking order. He hasn't pitched many innings this year because he missed all of spring training play with visa problems. He's only 21 years old.

But in his corner, Martinez has been in the system for a while. He made his professional debut in the St. Louis minors back in 2010, so he's something of a known commodity. He's got some polish with a nasty curve to go with a fastball that has been known to reach 100 MPH that sits at 95-96. In short, he has the physical tools to win and the coaching staff seems to think he's best prepared amongst the options to handle the pressure.

The fact that Martinez was two jumps away from St. Louis isn't necessarily a sign of his stage of development. It's not like it used to be when Class AAA was finishing school for big league prospects. The competition at Class AA is much more stout these days and there is a lot more veteran depth in Class AAA taking up space then than there used to be.

A viable alternative for Martinez would be fellow top three prospect Michael Wacha who is in Class AAA with a 3-0 record and a 1.86 ERA. But Wacha hasn't even seen a full season in the pros. He climbed last year from Rookie League up to Class AA after finishing his college season and being shut down. But he's dealt a lot less with quality competition, so the Cardinals probably are more concerned about taking it slow with him.

Taking it easy on this particular call-up might not be an option for St. Louis.

On Thursday night the bullpen was seriously taxed as the Redbirds fought to hold off Milwaukee. At some point today or tomorrow when the bullpen phone rings, it's going to have to be for the new guys, Martinez and Maness. Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica simply need to get some rest.

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