Martinez preps for starter audition in winter ball

Cardinals right-hander getting work in Dominican Republic

Martinez preps for starter audition in winter ball

ST. LOUIS -- Earlier this offseason, the Cardinals and Carlos Martinez found some middle ground between his desire to play winter ball in his home country of the Dominican Republic and the organization's need for their young right-hander to get sufficient rest in advance of a season that could see him find a permanent place in the rotation.

The two sides settled on a cap of 25 innings, which would cover between four and six Dominican Winter League starts, general manager John Mozeliak said. As of Monday, Martinez had made three, totaling 12 1/3 innings, leaving him a few available innings still to accrue as his DWL club, the Aquilas Cibaenas, now moves into a four-team round robin that will determine which two clubs play for the national title.

Martinez's three starts have been strong. He's yet to walk a batter while striking out 12 and allowing three earned runs on 10 hits. Last winter, he allowed 13 runs (eight earned) on 22 hits in 23 2/3 DWL innings. The work then, as Martinez hopes is also the case now, allowed him to report to Spring Training more advanced than most pitchers.

That could be important this year, as the Cardinals intend to give Martinez a long look for their fifth starter opening. His most likely competition -- unless the Cardinals acquire another starter -- is lefty Marco Gonzales.

"I think right now Carlos is pitching with a purpose," Mozeliak said. "It's not something where it's simply to be a part of something that some of the local players around there feel like they have to do. He feels that obligation, but he's doing this to prepare for Spring Training."

While Martinez is the most notable Cardinals player currently participating in a winter ball league, here are others of note:

INF Dean Anna: Anna, who is expected to compete for the Cardinals' backup utility infielder job, has hit .322/.487/.390 with 15 runs scored and nine RBIs in 17 Mexican Pacific League games.

OF Tommy Pham: Following a September callup to St. Louis, Pham took some time off before heading to Venezuela to participate in its winter league. Through 14 games, the center fielder has a slash line of .143/.317/.265 with seven runs scored and two stolen bases.

1B Xavier Scruggs: Scruggs played some outfield to add to his versatility and also had a strong offensive showing in 28 DWL games. He batted .257/.352/.476 with five homers, 19 RBIs and 16 runs scored.

INF Breyvic Valera: After playing 12 games in the Arizona Fall League, Valera left for Venezuela, where he has hit .346/.414/.410 with 17 runs, 10 RBIs and three stolen bases in 19 games.

LHP Nick Greenwood: Greenwood, who made his Major League debut in 2014, has pitched three innings in two relief appearances for Martinez's Aguilas club. He has allowed one run on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for 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.