Martinez calls his Grapefruit debut an 'exciting day'

Martinez calls his Grapefruit debut an 'exciting day'

JUPITER, Fla. -- Perhaps Carlos Martinez's spring could best be described as controlled. Not only could that be used to describe the way in which the Cardinals have brought him along in camp, but it's also how they hope he pitches.

The emotion and flair Martinez demonstrates from the mound is welcomed by the Cardinals -- that is, as long as Martinez is able to channel it to his benefit. It's a discussion the team has had with the right-hander the past few seasons and one it seems that he's taking to even more so this spring.

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"[The conversation is] about monitoring that balance of the enthusiasm and the aggressiveness and the emotion with what's keeping you from being consistent," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think he's been taking positive strides and figuring out what that looks like."

After progressing through a throwing program that was deliberately slowed to account for the shoulder injury that ended his 2015 season, Martinez made his Grapefruit League debut with a two-inning start in the Cardinals' 4-3 win over the Braves on Friday. He hit 99 mph on the radar gun, allowing one run on three hits and one walk. Martinez registered a pair of strikeouts and featured an especially sharp slider.

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"I feel pretty good," Martinez, with Brayan Pena serving as a translator, said afterward. "I have been working very hard to come back, and yeah, today was a very exciting day."

Matheny wouldn't commit to whether Martinez would continue on a pitch-every-five-days schedule from here on out, but the Cardinals do anticipate having Martinez ready to for the opening week of the regular season despite his altered program.

Worth noting: 

• Before he played five innings in Friday's game, Yadier Molina took his first swings of spring off a machine. All went well for the veteran catcher as he increased his offensive work, though the Cardinals have still not given him clearance to hit in Grapefruit League games. In his one at-bat on Friday, Molina took three strikes.

• Left-hander Tim Cooney, who had to halt his throwing program earlier in spring due to shoulder soreness, is expected to make his first appearance on Saturday.

• Four players from the Cardinals' organization will be participating in the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, which will be played from March 17-20 in Mexicali and Panama City. Those players include shortstop Alejandro Mejia (Mexico), right-hander Jhonathan Escudero (Columbia), left-hander Dewin Perez (Colombia) and shortstop Edmundo Sosa (Panama). Sosa is ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the organization's fifth-best prospect.

• Pirates manager Clint Hurdle announced that Francisco Liriano will be his club's Opening Day starter. The Cardinals have already tabbed Adam Wainwright to be his starting opponent when the two clubs meet in Pittsburgh on April 3.

• "Running Redbirds, right?" Matheny said, after his club swiped six more bases in Friday's win. The Cardinals, who ranked 11th in the National League with 69 stolen bases last year, already have a Major League-most 19 this spring. It's important to note, however, that most of those have come from players who are likely to open the season in the Minors.

• Infielder Patrick Wisdom remains sidelined by hamstring tightness, Matheny said. Wisdom is unlikely to play in games this weekend.

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