Carlos Martinez is the first Cardinal to hit the disabled list in 2019. After what was evidently and unproductive offseason for Martinez, he began to feel discomfort in his throwing shoulder during his last bullpen. Back in 2015, he missed the end of the season due to a similar injury. He also missed time last year with issues in the same shoulder.
Martinez was supposed to be on a strength training program this offseason in hopes of avoiding this situation. However, the Cardinals didn’t have any oversight of his commitment to the program and it would appear like it’s come back to bite them.
The team has now shut Carlos down for two weeks. He won’t throw another pitch until the first week of March. Instead, his time will be dedicated to a strengthening program similar to the one he was supposed to be on this winter. Clearly this reduces his candidacy for the Opening Day start. More importantly though, it could affect his ability to pitch in the rotation at all as the season begins.
If the latter comes to fruition, it will be a big blow to the Cards starting staff. Initially, Mikolas, Martinez and Flaherty projected to be one of the best 1-2-3 combos in baseball. Without Martinez though, St. Louis could struggle after the first two rotation spots.
The front office and manager aren’t overly concerned though. Over the past few days, since the news of Martinez’ injury, they have pushed that they have plenty of pitching depth on the roster.
Despite a proven, left handed, former Cy Young winning veteran like Dallas Keuchel still being available on the free agent market, the Cardinals are determined to utilize their internal options to potentially fill in for Martinez. “There’s a lot of people in the conversation,” manager Mike Shildt said. “The beautiful thing from our standpoint is depth and competition.”
The depth he and the team have been speaking of includes the likes of John Gant, Austin Gomber, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Dakota Hudson and possibly even Alex Reyes. These guys, of course, are behind Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright who already have rotation spots seemingly locked up.
While there’s a lot of potential talent among that group of guys, theres one overarching constant that sparks some concern; inexperience. Between the lot of them, there are only 49 big league starts. Twenty-eight of those starts belong to Gant.
There’s no doubt that the Cardinals have depth as far as just having arms. However, the quality of that depth is what’s concerning. It’s conceivable that if Martinez isn’t able to get healthy, or if he goes to the bullpen, one or some combination of these guys will be counted on to get 200 plus innings for the Cards. That’s at a minimum. Never mind the probability of Wacha getting hurt again or Wainwright not performing. If either of those situations crop up, those young guys will be called on even more.
Contentment is Key
The Cardinals obviously want to show faith in their guys and it’s much more economically friendly for them to go internally. However, with a guy like Keuchel still available this late in the offseason, if things don’t work out, their stance is going to be hard to defend. For better or worse though, Mozeliak and company seem content to stick with their guys.
Featured Image by Christian Gooden of St. Louis Post Dispatch