Thursday, February 20, 2014

Carlos Martinez is battling for Cardinals rotation? Who might he beat out?

The most interesting news out of the Cardinals Spring Training camp so far is that Carlos Martinez will be used as a starter.  It seemed almost a foregone conclusion that Martinez would be relegated to the pen.  The Cardinals return starters Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn this year and Jaime Garcia appears to be fully recovered from 2013 shoulder surgery.  If any of those guys should falter, swingman Joe Kelly would step into the fray.

However, with this latest news, it can mean one of two things:  (1) The Cardinals are concerned about Garcia's shoulder holding up over a full season or (2) the Cards are trying to light a fire under Lynn to get him to pitch consistently up to his potential.

For Garcia, there has been no setbacks to date and no indications that he is not fully recovered.  However, after throwing just 55.1 and 121.2 innings the last two years, there has to be some concern about whether he can last a full season. 

The Cards may play it safe and put an innings limit on the young lefty, thereby giving someone like Martinez the opportunity to step in once Garcia reaches that limit.  If that's the case, you could very well see Garcia and Martinez split the season as starters, with Garcia starting the first half of the season and Martinez taking over in the second half.

As for Lynn, he has started each of the last two seasons on fire, only to see him implode in the second half.

In 2012, Lynn posted a 9-4 record and 3.28 ERA in the first half and a 9-3 record, but 4.15 ERA in the second half.  The Cardinals chalked it up to fatigue and asked Lynn to lose weight in the offseason, which he did.

However, the weight loss didn't work, as the splits got even worse in 2013.  Lynn was 9-3 with a 2.82 ERA in the first half and just 6-7 with a 5.15 ERA in the second half.  There were concerns about Lynn's mental makeup and concentration, which leads one to believe that Lynn will have a very short leash in 2014.

But is that leash so short that Martinez could overtake him this spring, pushing Lynn to the bullpen?

Its possible or perhaps this is just the kind of motivation that Lynn needs to succeed.

In any case, it should be an interesting storyline to follow this Spring.

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