On Tuesday, Cardinals righty Carlos Martinez returned from a nearly monthlong absence thanks to a lat injury. It was a brief and disappointing outing, as Martinez lasted just 4.0 innings, allowing a couple earned runs in four hits and five walks.
More concerning for Cardinals fans than the results of one particular start was the stark drop in his fastball velocity for the outing, which sat at just 93-94 mph, when he’s typically closer to 96-97 mph. Is he just ramping back up? Is he still hurt? Did he come back from one injury only to hurt something else, like Alex Reyes?
Well, the good(?) news is that Martinez says he’s still healthy, but his explanation for the velocity drop caught even the Cardinals by surprise:
The club also says there is no concern over Carlos Martinez, who purposefully threw softer last night in fear of re-injurying his lat.
Mike Matheny said Martinez didn't tell him he planned to do this.
"We go with the information they give us. We can't read their minds."
— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) June 6, 2018
You can see in Matheny’s interview on the subject that he was very unhappy to be put in that position:
— KMOXSports (@KMOXSports) June 6, 2018
Martinez may very well be fine the next time out, but even setting aside the friction this apparently has caused, it just seems odd for a starting pitcher to come back from an injury and then intentionally throw soft because he’s afraid he’ll hurt himself again. That … doesn’t seem like a guy who is ready to come back. And, given how Reyes’ rehab and new injury played out, the Cardinals are probably extra sensitive to that kind of thing right now.
But, needless to say, getting Martinez right is more critical than ever for the Cardinals if they’re hoping to stay in the NL Central race.