Martinez threw four innings, allowing three hits and one unearned run. He walked none and struck out three in a 53-pitch outing.
“I know he threw terrific,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It looked like the ball was coming out well. It didn’t look like he used a lot of off-speed pitches. He just used a lot of his fastball, trusting it on both sides (of the plate) and moving it around. It was a good outing.”
One of Martinez’s fastballs was timed at 101 mph. The run he allowed came on a third-inning balk that allowed Jonathan Malo to score with Justin Morneau at the plate.
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“It didn’t faze him,” Matheny said. “That’s something that can at times get him distracted. The disposition he has, the mound presence, staying in the mid-50s (with his pitch count), all of that was good news.”
With a runner at third, the balk call was unusual.
“You’ve got to go out of your way to call a balk with a man on third. That’s a shame, even from the opposition side,” Matheny said. “Unless there’s something blatant where the (pitcher) almost falls down, that just shouldn’t happen.”
Matheny said “it’s a great honor” for Martinez to pitch for his native country.
“For us, it’s making sure he’s taking those next steps of being ready. (Thursday) was one of those,” Matheny said. “Obviously, it sounds like he enjoyed it. He was very proud to represent his country.”
Publicly, Matheny hasn’t yet determined who will start Opening Day on April 2 against the world champion Chicago Cubs, but most believe it’s between Martinez (16-9, 3.04 ERA in 2016) and veteran Adam Wainwright (13-9, 4.62 ERA).
“I haven’t just said it’s those two,” Matheny said. “I know that’s a hot topic of conversation, but I don’t think there’s this check list of, ‘This has to happen,’ or ‘That has to happen.’ We’ll just figure it out when we get to that day.”
Puerto Rico, which has All-Star Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina on its team, was scheduled to play Venezuela in its first game in the WBC on Friday.