Martinez to see limited action in winter ball

Righty could enter Spring Training competing for a job in Cards' rotation

Martinez to see limited action in winter ball

ST. LOUIS -- Seeking to balance Carlos Martinez's desire to appear in winter ball games with the optimal offseason preparation heading into 2015, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny agreed to allow Martinez an opportunity to make a brief stint in the Dominican Winter League this month.

A day after Martinez debuted with the Aguilas Cibaenas, Mozeliak confirmed that Martinez will be limited to 25 innings in winter ball. That cap will allow him to make between four and six starts.

Martinez has expressed an eagerness to pitch in the Dominican Winter League so that he could throw in front of hometown family and friends. He did so last winter, logging 23 2/3 innings over six starts. The workload was a boost for Martinez coming into Spring Training, as it put him further ahead early in the competition for a starting job.

But the Cardinals know that this year they might need to be more cautious about piling on those extra innings. With Shelby Miller's recent departure via trade to the Braves, Martinez's role on the 2015 club may be different than initially planned. Unless the Cardinals acquire another starting pitcher this winter, Martinez will report to Spring Training attempting to win a job in the starting rotation.

Martinez has made eight career starts, combining to go 2-2 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.703 WHIP in 37 innings. He has struck out 36 and walked 19 during that span. Because he's been used largely in relief, Martinez accrued only 89 1/3 innings last season. He'll be limited in how far above that he could go next year, which is one reason to be cautious about adding winter workload.

"Going to the Dominican Republic, I have a greater appreciation for why those guys want to do this," Matheny said. "These guys, there are so many of their family members who can't make it over here [to the U.S.] to watch them play in person. There's a benefit, too, that when he's going in competing for a position, being able to be at home and also go play against big league competition to prepare for Spring Training. All those are positives. It's just going to be balancing how much."

Martinez threw 3 1/3 innings for Aguilas on Sunday, scattering three hits and two runs while striking out three.

"You can normally tell that the kids who play winter ball have an advantage. There's no question," Matheny said. "But Carlos' stuff, you just aren't going to find many people with that kind of stuff. Now, the consistency is really what has been the differentiator. There is another level there still for him, and we're anxious to see him get there."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.