St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals’ Jose Martinez is loving life in the big leagues

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jose Martinez hits during spring training.
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jose Martinez hits during spring training. dholtmann@bnd.com

No one seems happier to be in the big leagues than Jose Martinez.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ 28-year-old rookie infielder/outfielder hasn’t stopped smiling since he made the team out of spring training. And he’s already contributed to a victory, doubling and scoring the winning run in the ninth inning Sunday in a 4-3 decision over the Chicago Cubs.

“I’m never going to forget this moment in my life. Never,” Martinez said soon after the game. “I’m going to watch the video the whole night. I’m not going to sleep tonight.”

There’s been a lot of stuff (in my career). I’m really happy to have the opportunity the Cardinals have given me. I’m just going to go out there and play hard. ... I’m going to stay ready. Being positive is a big thing for me.

Cardinals rookie Jose Martinez

Martinez played 10 years in the minor leagues. He finally collected his first hit last Sept. 8 with the Cardinals, who had acquired him from the Kansas City Royals more than three months earlier. Martinez finished 7 for 16 (.438) and impressed management this spring by going 19 for 50 (.380) with four homers and 15 RBIs.

“There’s been a lot of stuff (in my career),” said Martinez, who began playing professionally in 2006. “I’m really happy to have the opportunity the Cardinals have given me. I’m just going to go out there and play hard. ... I’m going to stay ready. Being positive is a big thing for me.”

Martinez has impressed Cardinals manager Mike Matheny with tough at-bats one would expect from a player who won a Pacific Coast League batting championship in 2015. Martinez batted .384 in 98 games with Class AAA Omaha in the Royals organization.

“This guy loves the game,” Matheny said. “You have to endure the stuff that he’s endured. What a story. This is a talented kid. He had a lot of this normal injuries and setbacks that have run people out of the game — talented people.

“(But) you watch the spring he had, you watch the fact that he won a batting title at Triple-A and still didn’t get the opportunity. That’s incredible. He stayed the course. He takes a big-league at-bat every single time and is a good teammate. He loves the game and will do whatever you need him to do.”

Rosenthal update

Reliever Trevor Rosenthal is on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right lat. It’s unclear whether he will be activated when his time expires Sunday.

“Any time he gets back on the mound, he’s going to be close,” Matheny said. “Whether we have to send him out (on a rehab) or whether we just get him back in the fold with us, I don’t know the answer to that. We’ll follow the medical team’s lead.”

Looking ahead

Lance Lynn will pitch the finale of the series against the Cubs at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, with Mike Leake, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez working the weekend series against Cincinnati. The game Friday begins at 7:15 p.m.; the games Saturday and Sunday are scheduled for 1:15 p.m.

Leake is 0-2 with a 7.25 ERA in four career games against the Reds, his former team.

“He was as good as any pitcher we saw on a consistent basis all spring as far as making great pitches and really pushing himself to stretch out his innings,” Matheny said. “Every single night he walks out there, he can throw a complete game and is going to keep you in the game.”

Leake was just 9-12 with a 4.69 ERA last season, his first with the Cardinals after signing a five-year, $80-million free-agent deal.

“Last year, we had a hard time keeping those big innings from happening,” Matheny said. “I think he’s figuring out some of those things, too. But we’ve got to do our part. We’ve got to play good baseball behind him. He needs us to play good defense so we can earn his trust.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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