Already down starter Dakota Hudson, the St. Louis Cardinals may now have also lost Carlos Martinez in their efforts to try to come back on the Cubs and win the NL Central.
Martinez, 29, was blown up by the Royals last night (a game that helped shrink the Cubs’ magic number to 3), and departed after a pitch in the 6th inning when it was clear he was feeling something. The Cardinals have termed it a “left mid-back strain,” and he’s due to get imaging done today.
Even if it’s a mild issue, it’s “hard to imagine” Martinez returning to make a start in five days, according to manager Mike Shildt, a start which would itself come only if the Cardinals needed to play their make-up doubleheader against the Tigers. Should the Cardinals make the postseason (which is still likely in some capacity), it’s not at all clear if Martinez will be able to return.
Meanwhile, Cardinals pundits are wondering not whether it was Martinez’s last start of the year, but whether it was his last start ever:
“But will there be any more starts for him with the Cardinals? Ever?” writes Rick Hummel. “The final one of this season, and perhaps of his career with the club, came Wednesday night in a 12-3 thrashing by #KCRoyals.” #stlcards @stltoday https://t.co/8nbpSAEYuj
— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) September 24, 2020
Although he’s just 29 and has had so much success as a starting pitcher in his younger days, Martinez has struggled to start the last few years (twice transitioning successfully into the bullpen). He wanted to start this year, so he was given that opportunity over five starts, but given the terrible results (9.90 ERA, 6.88 FIP, just 20.0 innings) and the injury history, it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be moved permanently to the bullpen next year.
The Cardinals have Martinez under contract next year at $11.7 million, and then hold club options for the next two years at $17 and $18 million. It’s pretty hard to imagine him having those options picked up as a reliever, but he has definitely shown the potential to excel in the role.
UPDATE: The Cardinals have officially put Martinez on the 10-day IL with a left oblique strain, so it’s highly likely he’s done.