After optioning Martinez down to AAA on May 27th to stretch him out as a starter, the Cardinals recalled him on July 11th to give the team a fresh arm in the pen before the break. However, what was originally considered a temporary assignment may now become a more permanent one.
There are various factors that come into play here, the foremost being what makes the most sense, both for the team and for Martinez' development.
As GM John Mozeliak states:
"We have to assess what makes the most sense. He’s electric. I definitely don’t want him to go backward in terms of how much he has built up (as a starter). As we look at the next two or three weeks is there enough usage to justify keeping him here?”In addition, Mike Matheny sums up the difficult decision like this:
“We do really like what he brings as a starter. For his development, it’s better for him to be prepared to start. It’s tough to weigh. We know he wants to be here. We like having him here. We think he can help us. But there is more that goes into the decision.”As Matheny says, there are other factors at play here as well.
For instance, a lot might depend on how Chris Carpenter fares in his rehab. He makes his first start tonight for AA Springfield and if he progresses, the need for Martinez as a starter decreases.
Also, will the Cardinals be able to find Martinez enough work? Prior to being moved into the starting rotation, Joe Kelly worked as the long reliever in the pen, the role that Martinez would likely take over. In the first two month of the season, Kelly only threw 18.2 innings, which would have put him on pace for about 55 innings. Hardly enough innings to allow a youngster like Martinez develop properly.
I think that the best option for the Cardinals and Martinez would be to send him back down to AAA to start. Although the Cardinals might not need another starter this year, they will certainly be looking for starters next year, with Jake Westbrook likely heading to free agency and the 5th starter spot still up in the air. Martinez could be one of the favorites to claim a starting role next year, but only if he's given time to properly develop this year.
However, the Cardinals may have already made their decision, as they optioned Keith Butler to AAA today. Butler, a righthander like Martinez, was unscored upon in his last 8 appearances, yet the Cards sent him down anyway, a possible indication that they have decided to keep Martinez.
In any case, I hope that if the Cardinals have decided to keep Martinez in the pen, it won't hamper his long-term development.