ST. LOUIS -- A season that right-hander Carlos Martinez opened with a promise to his late best friend ended abruptly on Saturday after an MRI revealed a Grade 2 strain in his throwing shoulder. The diagnosis came a day after he exited his start after just seven pitches, and it will preclude him from pitching in the postseason.
"If this happened, say, Aug. 1, he probably would pitch again," said general manager John Mozeliak as he held yet another media gathering to address an injury. "But unfortunately, where we are on the calendar, it's just not going to work out."
The Cardinals are confident that the issue can be treated with rest, which means Martinez can avoid surgery, and he is expected to be fully healthy by the start of Spring Training.
"It's obviously disappointing," Martinez said, using Jon Jay as a translator. "I was looking forward to pitching in the playoffs and helping this team get on a run. I'm not going to be able to do that now, but I know everything happens for a reason. I'm going to cheer on my teammates and do whatever I can."
The forced shutdown of Martinez means that Tyler Lyons will make a spot start next week. That outing is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, in Pittsburgh.
The news also ends any debate about which member of the five-man rotation would be left off the postseason starting staff. Barring additional injury, the Cardinals plan to have John Lackey, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha as their postseason four. Martinez, who could have been an asset either in the rotation or out of the 'pen, will have to watch.
Mozeliak described Martinez's injury as an acute one and noted that the damage likely occurred between his start last Sunday and when he exited Friday's game hiding his emotion by putting his glove over his face. Martinez said later that he was unconcerned about the tightness that he started feeling about a week earlier because he believed he could pitch through it.
That's why Saturday's news was so hard for him to hear.
"He was hurt," said Matheny, who, in Spanish, relayed the medical information to the 24-year-old. "Every one of these guys puts so much [into it], and this season, too, I believe had added emotion and meaning. Just walking out last night to take him out, you see the 'OT' on the back of the mound. He's been very driven to make sure he went out and competed in a way that he had set as an expectation level for himself. It's just a shame. He was broken up that he wasn't going to get an opportunity to help us do what we wanted to do."
Martinez has been through a lot over the last year, most notably in dealing with the loss of best friend and teammate Oscar Taveras last October. Martinez took Taveras' No. 18 as his own and dedicated his season to him. He did everyone proud, earning a rotation spot out of Spring Training, becoming a first-time All-Star a few months later and finishing the year 14-7 with a 3.01 ERA and 184 strikeouts in 179 2/3 innings.
Asked if the jump in workload -- Martinez threw only 103 2/3 innings in 2014 -- could have contributed to the shoulder stress, Mozeliak said the team will never truly know.
"This doesn't take anything away from his year," Mozeliak said. "He showed he's an elite-level starting pitcher. He wanted to get into the rotation, he earned it, and needless to say, when he was on, he was one of the more dominant guys in the Majors."
Added Martinez: "After this I'm going to continue to work hard and continue to get better. When they tell me I'm ready to throw, I'm going to go out there. But mentally, I'm in a good place, knowing I've given it my all. Things happen for a reason."