ST. LOUIS — "Carlos Martinez, what would you consider your role here?"
I imagine the Office Space scenario playing out if I sat down the still young Cardinals' pitcher to ask him about his everyday job. Honestly, what role does Martinez play in this bullpen? I'm asking because I have no idea.
There he was on Sunday night, giving up the game-sealing runs in the eighth inning to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, sealing the avenging sweep at the hands of the North Siders. The Cubs outscored the feeble Cardinals 17-6 in the three game deflation, and Martinez was the final pawn in the game. A sad sight for a former difference maker.
It's funny. A few months ago, Martinez was set to come into 2019 as a starter, ready to conquer a minor setback in 2018. At the Winter Warm-up, he was taking questions and smiling. He showed up to camp a month later, and promptly hit the injured list ... for weeks. After deliberations that felt like government treaty sessions, he was assigned to the bullpen.
Here's the deal. Martinez has no role down there. He's pitched in nine games, amassing 8.2 innings of work. He has eight strikeouts, allowed four walks, and held hitters to a .200 batting average. He isn't a setup guy, closer, or bridge arm. He is a nobody down there who comes out to throw. Martinez looks as interested as I would at a cafe that only sold decaf coffee. I don't blame him.
Did he come into camp without a healthy shoulder? Possibly, but that doesn't mean waste his talent in a useless bullpen role. You are losing wins out there by doing so. If this is for a lesson, try better tactics. If it is a "get something out of him" tactic, it's still a bad idea. The best plan would be to send him to Springfield or Memphis to get stretched out as a starter. If he can't do that, shut him down. Save the pitches, because he isn't doing much good where he is.
Let me ask you an honest question: How many wins is Martinez giving you in the bullpen with an undefined role? I'll say very few at best.
At his best, Martinez is a top of the line starter. A guy who gave you three solid seasons in a row from 2015-2017, pitching at least 179 innings in each of them with an average 3.31 ERA. Last year, he didn't pitch terribly either, putting together a 3.11 ERA in 18 starts and 15 relief appearances. I don't see a reason to just drop that ability down to picking up scraps in an every-man role.
It's about time the Cardinals and fans realize this guy isn't going to win a Cy Young award. He's not going to get to that level that you'd like him to. Blame it on mental prep or whatever makes you sleep comfortably, but it's not happening. He can still be a really good #2 or excellent #3. The salary he makes doesn't dictate Ace-caliber statistics either. It also doesn't appease useless bullpen work.
The Cardinals are wasting Carlos Martinez's talents. If there's one thing this team does worst than most, it is mismanage young pitchers. Look at Ryan Helsley this year; John Brebbia the last two years; Matt Bowman in the years before. Should I keep going?
It's not too late to get Martinez right. Put him where he belongs and start it now. Don't say health to me. Are you telling me the erratic innings load of a reliever is better than the planned appointment of starting? Sell that material elsewhere.
Do the right thing, Cardinals. These days, it's a rare act.
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