St. Louis Cardinals

Rule 5 pickup Bowman making impression in Cardinals’ bullpen

Rule 5 pickup Matt Bowman appears to be with the St. Louis Cardinals for the long haul.

The Cardinals plucked the 24-year-old reliever from the New York Mets in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft Dec. 10. Bowman has to remain on the major-league roster all season or be placed on waivers.

If Bowman were to clear waivers, he would be offered back to the Mets. But that isn’t a possibility with Bowman posting a 2.25 ERA in 10 games and 12 innings.

“I’m happy to have the opportunity, but whatever situation it may be that they put me in, I’m just going to go out and throw as well as I possibly can until they say, ‘OK, that’s enough from you,’” said Bowman, a native of Chevy Chase, Md., who played at Princeton University.

“The nature of the Rule 5 is you have to sort of make the most of everything because it’s everything or nothing. I try to make sure that every day or every opportunity I get, I prove something or show them they made a good choice by selecting me.”

The nature of the Rule 5 is you have to sort of make the most of everything because it’s everything or nothing. I try to make sure that every day or every opportunity I get, I prove something or show them they made a good choice by selecting me.

St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Matt Bowman

Bowman has limited left-handed hitters to an .071 average (1-for-14) and has given the Cardinals a durable arm capable of throwing two innings.

“He’s done a great job,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s been a nice surprise, especially as we’re trying to get Seth (Maness) right. We’ve been able to throw Bowman in a lot of those situations where we would normally just say, ‘This is Maness.’

“But I would say also (Bowman) is a little more flexible. Seth has been the guy we would just get up every night and he would get us out of an inning. Matt’s done a little bit more than that. He’s gone multiple innings and has been in some close games. ... He’s been a great addition and a needed addition our bullpen.”

Bowman said he’s not yet reached the point where he can say: “I belong here.” But that doesn’t mean he’s lacking confidence.

“I still view it as every day, you need to prove that you’re supposed to belong here,” Bowman said. “They could still cut me and kick me back to the Mets at any point.”

Bowman, who throws a low-90s fastball along with a slider, curve and changeup that he commands well, labored to a 7-16 record and a 5.53 ERA in 28 games, 26 of them starts, last season with Class AAA Las Vegas. He allowed 184 hits in 140 innings.

“From last year to this year, it’s definitely a mental difference,” Bowman said. “There are a few mechanical changes I’ve made, but definitely last year, mentally, I was not very aggressive throwing pitches in the zone. This year, I’m trying to keep a good mix of pitches, but mostly just throw them at the strike zone aggressively.

“It’s a matter of trusting your stuff. There’s a lot of video and scouting reports on these (hitters), so when you do attack in a certain way, you can have some confidence that if he happens to hit it, OK, he happens to hit it. But your plan was right. Trusting that there was a plan that was the correct course of action has been important for me.”

Extra rest for Martinez?

Despite right-hander Carlos Martinez still fighting the lingering effects of the flu, there are no indications the Cardinals will have him skip a start to make sure he’s healthy.

Martinez was unable to complete four innings in the Cardinals’ 4-2 loss Friday, exiting because of fatigue with the bases jammed and one out. After the game, Martinez said he felt miserable.

“I don’t know if it’s overall rest he’s going to need more so than just kind of letting normal time pass,” Matheny said. “That’s what’s happened for every one of these guys (with the flu). It’s just taken time, and once they get over the hump, it’s all pretty good.

“I’m not going to overthink it at this point. If the medical team decides he needs more (rest), we’ll give him more rest. The same way with everybody.”

Martinez has dropped his last two starts and is 4-2 with a 2.61 ERA. His next scheduled outing is at 9:05 p.m. Thursday in Los Angeles against the Angels.

Lyons roars

Tyler Lyons replaced Martinez and escaped the fourth inning Friday by striking out Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer. Lyons saved the bullpen by working 3 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He walked none and struck out seven.

It was the most strikeouts Lyons has had in a game since May 5, 2015, against the Chicago Cubs. It was the most strikeouts for a reliever throwing as few as 3 2/3 innings since 2013.

“That was huge,” Matheny said. “Just coming into the situation that he came in and getting a couple of punchouts, he looked great. He was throwing the ball well and ate some innings up. Right now, he’s real good with whatever he has to do to be a part of our team.”

Lyons said it was the best stuff he’s had all season. He has pitched in a scant nine games, registering a 5.27 ERA in 13 2/3 innings.

“It was about as good as it’s felt all year,” Lyons said. “Just my ability to be consistent with it. It was fun. In that role, you’re just trying to go out there and eat up as many innings for the bullpen as you can. That’s something that can really set the bullpen back.”

Matheny took note of Lyons’ crispness.

“He didn’t have the bullpen, so he had to figure it all out here,” Matheny said. “I didn’t necessarily watch him warm up because he was basically playing catch. But there was something he and Yadi (Molina) saw in his offspeed pitches that he felt good about, because he came right out ... throwing a curve, throwing the slider, throwing the change. He was effective with the fastball and seemed to like what he was doing.

“That game could have got out of control. That’s the long and short of it. It could have been a big, big inning and tough to recover from. What a terrific job of keeping us in that game.”

Tate Matheny rolling

Matheny’s son, Tate, a fourth-round selection of the Boston Red Sox in the amateur draft last June, is batting .310 with two doubles, one triple, one home run and 12 RBIs as a center fielder for the Greenville Drive of the low-Class A South Atlantic League.

Matheny’s on-base percentage is .388. He had his triple and home run in the same game Thursday.

“He’s hitting well,” Mike Matheny said. “He’s rolling now. He’s been batting third almost every night.

“It was fun. After the game Thursday, we went home and were able to hook up the iPad on the TV and we got to watch his first homer. My wife and two of the boys were sitting there watching, so it was cool.”

Freese hits

Former Cardinals third baseman David Freese received a warm reception from the crowd of 42,338 when he was introduced as a pinch-hitter in the ninth Saturday.

Freese doffed his helmet to the fans, then reached on an error by shortstop Aledmys Diaz. Freese scored the tying run on Starling Marte’s double, but the Cardinals won 6-4 on Matt Carpenter’s two-run homer in the ninth.

It was Freese’s first appearance in a game at Busch Stadium since 2013.

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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