Mike Matheny and the Cardinals are off to a hot start, winning 10 of their first 16 games. Surprisingly, the Milwaukee Brewers currently hold first place in the NL Central. Although it is still very early in a long season, the Brewers have shown signs of good baseball thus far. Many projected the Brewers to be at the bottom of the NL Central in 2014, and the Cardinals to win the division.
Matheny already has a few decisions to make as far as player personnel goes in the young season. There is no doubt that Carlos Martinez has the stuff to be a pitcher at the Major League level, the question is: Relief or Starting? Martinez was a starting pitcher until he received his Major League debut in 2013. His numbers in the minors were amazing, collecting 21 wins and having an ERA just shy of 2.70. The young right hander throws well into the upper 90’s, and has lightning stuff out of the bullpen. He made a spot starts last year for the Cards, and got hit pretty hard by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Spring training of this season, Martinez was trying to earn a spot on the rotation. His numbers indicated that he could be effective as a SP for the Cardinals, by going 1-0 with a 2.81 ERA in 16 innings. Some say the Cardinals have one of the best rotations in baseball today, which is probably why Martinez has started off in the pen. But as they always do, injuries have already come to the Cardinals rotation. Joe Kelley was just put on the 15 day disabled list, and the Cardinals are looking to fill his spot in the rotation until he returns. Tyler Lyons and Carlos Martinez are among possible suitors for the time being.
Carlos has electric stuff coming into ball games, as we saw the youngster excel in last year’s postseason. So the question is, does Matheny start Martinez? Well, it isn’t all that simple. Yes, he was stretched out in spring training to be a starter, but has only come in relief for the first 16 games. Martinez also has electric stuff in the bullpen, but it may not transfer over as effectively as a Major League starter. We have seen other players in previous years go through this.
Joba Chamberlain, who now pitches for the Tigers, was in the same exact boat Martinez is in currently. Chamberlain pitched in relief for the Yankees in 2007, and held a 2-0 record with an ERA of 0.38. In 2008, he started in the pen, but was needed to make a few spot starts. He impressed by keeping runs off the board until mid-season, when he got lit-up as a starter. He returned to the pen for the rest of the year, and was lights out again. The Yankees did try to make him a starter again in 2009/2010, but it didn’t pan out. Chamberlain is a reliever, not a starter.
It will be interesting to see whether or not the Cardinals will continue to play with this idea and make Carlos Martinez a starter. Joba had very bad results going from a MLB reliever to starter (Was a starter in the minors), but that doesn’t mean Martinez will too. Regardless, the Cardinals are already a dangerous team, and having this 22 year old as a starter will just make them better when Kelly does return. Matheny will have to decide sooner or later what to do, but so far the former MLB catcher has come through as a manager at the Major League level.