Editor’s note: This post is written by Jason Bradshaw, who is a resident of Springfield, MO, as well as a noted early adapter to the Harrison Bader movement which is sweeping Cardinals fandom (he bought a custom-ordered Bader shirsey in 2016 when he was playing in Springfield). He was kind enough to report on Carlos Martinez’s rehab start last night.
I guess it is only fitting that I woke up this morning to a thunderstorm at 6:10, precisely twelve hours before the gates will open at Hammons Field for a game featuring a rehab start by Tsunami for the AA Springfield Cardinals. Carlos Martinez has been on the 10-day DL since suffering a strained right lat muscle. With the copious amounts of rain falling during the day I was worried if the landing area of the mound could place undue strain on his lat muscle. Per manager Mike Matheny, Martinez was expected to throw 50-60 pitches and will be re-evaluated after the start.
There’s an energy in the ballpark before C-Mart’s start. Perhaps it is because they were giving 1968 replica rings to the first 2,000 fans or perhaps it is because it is Thursday which means my favorite tradition: $1 Brats at the ballpark. Allow me to take a quick moment to make a plea to Cardinals fans everywhere: If you love this team you need to come and watch a game in Springfield. It’s a beautiful ballpark, has cheap tickets, and provides great entertainment. (steps down off soap box) Okay, now on to how Carlos’s evening went.
First Inning: Martinez’s first pitch registered 97 on the stadium gun (in years past I’ve been told this gun is a mph or two high). 93 was his next fastest pitch of the inning. He retired the side 1-2-3 recording a ground out, fly out, and strikeout. We are feeling good after one for ol’ Carlos. He only threw 8 pitches in the inning.
Second Inning: Remember how good that first inning was? Well the 2nd was…not so much. Martinez started the first batter off with off speed pitches before grooving a 91 mph pitch that was taken the “oppo taco” over the right field wall. I should say that after the home run I began to look at Martinez’s delivery. Keep in mind that I am not a scout nor baseball expert by any means but Martinez has a very fluid pitching motion. Martinez looked apprehensive to push off of the rubber full force and I think that took away from his pitch deception. He wasn’t fooling anyone in this inning. After generating a pop out, another opposite field home run was allowed by Martinez. The pitch registered 88 on the radar gun. A strikeout, infield single and another strikeout closed out the frame for Martinez.
Third, Fourth, Fifth Innings: Martinez continued to give up hard hit balls, some caught and some not. He worked very quickly. I would say the average time between pitches was probably 10 seconds or so. Martinez seemed focused on not getting reinjured, but again, this is conjecture. He ended the game after allowing a hard hit double down the left field line to the first batter of the fifth inning. His final line was 4+ IP, 5H, 2ER (on 2 solo HR in 2nd), 4K, 63 pitches (I believe 44 were strikes).
Rehab starts are always difficult to judge. It did not look like until the later innings that Martinez was dialing up the velocity on his fastball and maybe that was by design. We don’t know what was hurting him more and what the team wanted him to work on. What I do know is he was hit very hard by AA batters after posting a sub 2.00 ERA in the majors. I know his delivery did not look the same. Martinez was gingerly landing straight ahead instead of (sometimes) violently finishing his pitches falling towards the first base side of the mound. He looked like he got frustrated at times, but more concerning was that he didn’t seem to have the Carlos flare that we all have come to love and admire. He looked timid on the mound. He looked like he was throwing the baseball off of a mound, but he was not pitching a game. Overall, I am not concerned about Martinez’s long term but I would want to see a little more out of him before returning to the bigs. We will see what the Cardinals decide but if C-Mart isn’t ready I hope for his sake and the club’s he takes one more rehab start.
Other Notes from the Game: Corpus Christi starter Cionel Perez looked just filthy in 5 innings of shut out ball. His ERA is 1.66 in the Texas League this season. Rated by some publications as the Astros #6 prospect he looks like he has all the tools to be a good pitcher. He’s a 22 year old from Cuba and is a name I would personally remember. Shoot I’ll say it: TRADE CARLOS MARTINEZ FOR CIONEL PEREZ.
The game was extremely boring for 7 innings with the Cardinals mounting 3 separate comebacks only to lose 9-8 in 12 innings. And in case you are wondering…yes, starting with a runner on base to start extra innings is incredibly stupid to watch.
First Carlos, Now YADI?: Springfield fans will be graced with the presence of catcher Yadier Molina this weekend as he is expected to rehab in games Saturday and Sunday versus the San Antonio Missions. Also, Saturday is a sweet deal because in addition to Yadi it is Paul DeJong bobblehead day and after the game fans can go onto the field and watch the film “The Sandlot” on the screen at Hammons Field.