ST. LOUIS -- Knowing that efficiency and effectiveness will determine whether he sticks as a member of the Cardinals' rotation, Carlos Martinez is taking a little bit off to get a little bit more.
While his ability to rely heavily on a power fastball worked fine in a relief role, Martinez is showing himself a more complete pitcher as he proves the Cardinals correct for carving out a starting spot for him. In two starts, both against Cincinnati, Martinez has shown no hesitancy in throwing his changeup or slider in big spots, like he did in Saturday's 5-2 win. And when he does go back to the fastball, he's prioritizing command over mphs.
The result? Earlier contact, fewer walks and improved endurance.
"When I throw that hard, I get tired a little bit more quickly," said Martinez, with bullpen catcher Kleininger Teran translating. "That way I can throw the pitches more for strikes and keep hitters off balance. ... As a starting pitcher, I have to go and throw more innings. I don't want to throw as many pitches in an inning, so I can go longer."
"He was manipulating it a little bit today," added manager Mike Matheny. "He backed off at times, I think, because he saw he had better control and better movement when he was off his max effort. That is a huge step that is hard to get a young player to take."
According to fangraphs.com, Martinez had an average fastball velocity of 97.6 mph in 2013 and 96.1 mph in 2014. Both years, he pitched primarily out of the 'pen. Over 12 innings this month, that fastball is registering regularly around 93-94 mph.
The more liberal inclusion of other pitches has also helped Martinez become less predictable. He recorded more outs on his slider and changeup (10) than he did with his fastball (eight) in Saturday's win.